The Most Difficult Thing

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Member Reviews

A strange read. I wasn't sure who Anna was working for and what was real, she seemed a very shallow character. We see her preparing to leave her three year old twins, and it looks like she has a maternal relationship with them, but on reading the book it seems she spent no time with them. And who Maria is working for? Who is the mysterious Harry? Everything seems just that bit too facile. I did enjoy the book, but the ending left me scratching my head. Who was at the door and what actually happened? #netgalley #mostdifficultthing
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It's difficult to nail this securely to a particular genre. It's a tale of lies and betrayal, of love and loss, it's billed as espionage but Le Carré or Fleming it certainly isn't. 

Anna, David and Meg have been friends since university. The mysterious Harry had been a star reporter and Anna is in his thrall when she begins sharing a flat with David, a millionaire's son, initially as a purely practical arrangement.
It turns out the arrangement suits Harry's purposes well as he claims to be a Government spy who is currently working on exposing the illegal activities of David's father, Clive, and his company and he recruits Anna to help him.

Anna's relationship with David becomes more intimate, first casually but gradually deepens, however, Harry is the true love and the situation with David is ambiguous at best.

I understand that Charlotte Philby is trying to nuance the motivations of those who end up in espionage and see how it might work for a woman. To demonstrate how a series of individual choices can set a person's path in a direction they might not have chosen at the start. I found myself regularly doubting the likelihood of any of this but this is where the granddaughter of Kim Philby holds the ace. At the same time I struggled to empathise and it was a pretty slow read. The regular switches back and forth in time and the changes of narrator between Anna and David's childhood friend Maria are clever and are and interesting way to allow the story to unfold but I found the timeline difficult to follow and the voices of Anna and Maria were too similar.

It's well conceived, I believe it's well crafted, it's getting good reviews, it's a promising debut by a writer who is uniquely qualified but I'm not sure I'm the right reader!
ARC courtesy Netgalley
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The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby sounds great. A domestic spy thriller and all the ingredients seem to be there. But somehow, the mix doesn’t quite deliver. I found the central character incredibly self obsessed and therefore quite difficult to engage with. She walks out on a life of plenty and the action moves to Greece. Then I found the narrative rather confusing and couldn’t work out if it was poor storytelling, or if I wasn’t concentrating. If the latter, then clearly the book has failed in some way because it couldn’t hold my attention.

I ended up skim reading the second half and although it packs a final punch, it’s rather a tortuous route to get there. Overall, a disappointment. 

My thanks to the publisher for an early r3view copy via Netgalley.
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The author comes with an interesting background as former journalist for the Independent and also the granddaughter of the UK’s most famous communist double agent, Kim Philby, also with high praise from Louise Candlish on the blurb for this book
It took, for me, a long time to read and am not quite sure now finished it why what happened happened!!
Quite confusing in parts and with one of the most unlikeable, self centred main characters,Anna, I have met in a book the story seems to trundle on at a lethargic speed with an unbelievable ‘spy’ story that I just couldn’t relate to  
The promise is there and all the mainstays of a good tale but somehow it just never resonated with me and there were too many flaws in it and when the ‘action’ does happen its all rather benign
The ending left it open with more unanswered than answered questions!!
Got to say the descriptive writing of things unrelated to the actual bones of the book ie scene settings and atmospheres, feelings etc were excellent and probably kept me reading the book rather than the actual story 
I would definitely read the 2nd book by the author when its out as I am sure a great book is there, just not for me, this time

4/10  2 Stars
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I think that I wanted to like this book more than I actually do. I was definitely in for the ride all the way to the disappointing end, but for the most part I spent my time wondering what on earth was going on. 

Character motivations are all over the place, so much so that even their own explanations for their actions never made much sense. I find it very hard to get on with thrillers that hinge entirely on everyone being stupid and/or not communicating in any believable way. I would have appreciated more detail but everything remains murky throughout, with vague references to government agencies and cagey spies but honestly it just felt under researched. One of the deep cover agents is found out because someone finds his paystubs with CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE out with his recycling bins. Honestly.
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I am not sure what this book is trying to be. It's a hybrid and I am not sure it worked. Neither the espionage nor the domestic drama were strong enough individually, and for me didn't work together very well either. The two characters, Anna and Maria were very similar and their voices too similar also. I thought the book was technically well written with a good use of language but the plot didn't grab me and I found it an uncomfortable read in places. With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Most Difficult Thing is a beautifully lyrical domestic drama and espionage hybrid with two very different but very engaging women at the heart of it .

Lies and deceit are at the centre of a seemingly strong and powerful marriage and Charlotte Philby takes the reader on an emotional and riveting journey through the lives of Anna and her "Nanny" Maria keeping things edgy and off kilter, never quite sure where the truth lies between all the shades of grey. 

This makes for a compelling page turner that holds attention throughout, leading you to a classically thought provoking finale. Character is key here but I won't give anything away, this is a book best read cold,  it's emotional impact coming from often unexpected directions. 

I loved it. Different and fascinating, a really excellent read.
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The Most Difficult Thing is a gripping story of espionage and betrayal.Set between London .The Maldives and Greece ,Anna has reinvented herself  and married David son of a Millionaire whose business involves dumping toxic waste ,when she becomes pregnant with twins .Anna though is still in love with the mysterious Harry who claims to be a spy for the Government ,who is working on bringing David's Father Clive down and recruits her to help him . Marie is an old childhood  friend of David who is asked to help with the twins when they are born .The story is told through both Anna and Maria .I found this story exciting wondering if Anna is going to get caught .None of the characters seem trustworthy and the unexpected  ending left me wanting more ! A very good debut book . Many thanks to the Publisher ,the Author and NetGalley for my copy in return for an honest review .
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A  gripping story of spies and counter spies, full of twists and turns.  From her days at University Anna has two loves in her life, - David and Harry.  Harry, whose work is highly secretive, convinces Anna that David’s billionaire father is running a very dubious business and recruits her, she thinks to either MI5 or MI6 , and encourages her to strengthen her relationship with David, whilst secretly reporting back to Harry at the same time.  The arrival of twin daughters encourages David, who is deeply in love with Anna, to propose and the marriage quickly takes place.  Anna, ever suspicious, soon unearths evidence and ends up in a Catch 22 situation, fearing for her and her girls lives.  She has no alternative but to flee - but can she get away?  The sudden ending of the novel definitely leaves the reader wanting more!  Phew!
A great first novel by Charlotte Philby.
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Anna is married to David but in thrall to the mysterious Harry who has set her up to spy on David and his family's business which is involved in the dumping of toxic waste. This is at first quite easy but when she becomes pregnant, David starts to withdraw from her, turning to Maria, a childhood friend. But is Maria what she seems?

Told from the viewpoints of Anna and Maria, their voices were not sufficiently differentiated for me. I found it difficult to follow the thread of the story and did not find the motivation of either character convincing. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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How many lies make a truth?
Everyone in this story lies, and everyone has an ulterior motive. Personally, I never trusted Harry and Anna has invented herself and her family. Maria - well she was up to something right from the beginning, and Clive and David always had something to hide....
Now back to the actual story-telling. I found the middle section hard going and was tempted at times to stop reading. It seemed to be going nowhere and the constant flashing to and fro in time was distracting. But by Chapter 40 it had settled down into ‘proper’ story-telling and then along came Felicity again, and upset the apple-cart!
And as for the ending... most unexpected.
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