About the Book
Sixteen-year-old Fiona wants for nothing: hers is a life of comfort and privilege. But not of happiness. Her already distant relationship with her mother is stretched further by the sudden death of her beloved father. When she discovers an old newspaper clipping of an unknown woman with a little girl who looks exactly like her, she sees the chance to escape and find her true family.
Aided by Patrick, her charming but manipulative boyfriend, she tracks down her sister Maddy, in Rome. And with her, the mother she always dreamed of.
But to Maddy this strange girl wearing her face seems to want more than to reconnect. She seems to be stalking her every move and wants to claim Maddy’s life for her own. Maddy wants nothing to do with this unsettingly familiar stranger. Unfortunately, those around her have other ideas.
Caught in a game of cat and mouse, Fiona and Maddy are both fascinated and repulsed by one another. But they aren’t the only ones playing and soon the girls must decide who to trust, and who to protect. Will blood prove thicker than water?
Format: Paperback (416 pages) Publisher: Gallic Books
Publication date: 22nd March 2023 Genre: Thriller, Mystery
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I was a big fan of Charles Lambert’s previous book, The Bone Flower. (My husband, who is not a prolific reader, gave it the thumbs up as well.) Therefore I was pleased to be given the opportunity to read the author’s latest book. Billed as a psychological thriller, I would say the psychological aspect is definitely the main focus of the first two thirds of the book as the author deftly explores the dynamics between two young women each of whom were previously unaware of the other’s existence.
When Fiona discovers she has a twin sister and that her mother, Anne, is not her birth mother it acts as a kind of confirmation of the reason for their fractious relationship. The woman in the newspaper photograph seems more like the caring, easygoing mother Fiona should have had, leaving her feeling she has been cheated. I have to say I did feel slightly sorry for Anne because of the cold manner with which Fiona treats her, upping sticks and moving to Rome in pursuit of Maddy. And it does seem like a pursuit, because of the degree of subterfuge involved, including a ploy which is a homage to Frederick Forsyth’s novel, The Day of the Jackal.
I confess my sympathies lay more with Maddy who suddenly finds she has a sister – an identical twin sister at that – and one who is intent on inserting herself into her life. Fiona is convinced that, being twins, there must be a natural connection between them. ‘How wonderful it would be to share a soul, to have that bond with someone, better than love, because love can fade or turn into hate; to have something that would always be there…’ She’s always looking for opportunities to point out the similarities between them, seeming to feel that because they look identical they must be identical. But Maddy can only see the differences. Fiona has had a privileged, financially secure upbringing whilst Maddy’s has been a hand-to-mouth, nomadic one caused by her mother’s inability to hold down a job and growing dependence on alcohol. Even where they live demonstrates that difference: Fiona in a smart apartment, Maddy in a small, rundown flat. At one point, Maddy goes out of her way to demonstrate that difference.
Each of them though at some point imagines being the other. Maddy muses, ‘Maybe I should take over everything… Her life, her flat. Her money. I’d be such an improvement on the original’. Catching a bus to Maddy’s flat, Fiona reflects that Maddy would never take a taxi. ‘Today she wanted to be Maddy, or as close to Maddy as she could get. She wanted to be the daughter her mother had chosen.’
Fiona idealises Heather, her birth mother, finding every opportunity she can to spend time alone with her, even involving her longtime friend, Ludovico, in distracting Maddy’s attention. But Maddy sees only the damaged woman she has had to singlehandedly care for. It’s difficult enough for Fiona and Maddy to deal with the fact Heather chose to give one of them away, depriving both of them of a sister and one of them of growing up with their birth mother. But what if that’s not the whole story?
The disruptor in the story is Patrick, Fiona’s boyfriend, who we know from pretty much early on is a wrong’un. He’s clever but that cleverness is directed towards taking advantage of opportunities to manipulate others for his own benefit. His involvement introduces the thriller element of the book with the author really ratcheting up the tension and the melodrama as the book moves to its conclusion, whilst also leaving some tantalising questions to be resolved in the epilogue.
Birthright is an absorbing combination of suspenseful mystery and complex family drama.
I received an advance review copy courtesy of Gallic Books.
In three words: Insightful, intriguing, engrossing
Try something similar: My Secret Sister by Lauren Westwood
About the Author
Charles Lambert is the author of several novels, short stories, and the memoir With a Zero at its Heart, which was voted one of The Guardian readers’ Ten Best Books of the Year in 2014. In 2007, he won an O. Henry Award for his short story The Scent of Cinnamon. His first novel, Little Monsters, was longlisted for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His novel Prodigal was shortlisted for the Polari Prize for LGBTQ writing in 2019. Born in England, Charles Lambert has lived in central Italy since 1980. (Photo: Goodreads author page)