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A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter

A Quiet Life

Literary Fiction   Thriller / Suspense   Debuts of the Month   Historical Fiction   
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July 2016 Debut of the Month.

Wife. Mother. Spy. The publisher’s blurb tells us. Now Laura just wants a ‘a quiet life’ and so we follow her to that conclusion. As a young American woman just before World War II she meets a working-class English communist on the boat to London and somewhat hero-worships her, absorbing her beliefs. Laura’s privileged English cousins with whom she stays also influence her as they are set on a good time even into the early war years. Part of this set is Edward, who works for the Foreign Office. He is both our love interest and our spy. The fabric around the story is the pressure of living a lie, of always dissembling, of playing a role and always being on your guard. Edward drinks to cope, Laura lives as a totally false person, an empty-headed socialite which is how she is eventually perceived. This is a very interesting slant on the Cold War, a fascinating read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

If you like Natasha Walter you might also like to read books by Jane Thynne, Helen Dunmore and Sebastian Faulks.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. Click here to read the full reviews.

  • Catherine Price - 'Passion and betrayal in post-war London and Washington, this is a fascinating and well-researched historical novel about one of the least studied (and most interesting) characters in the Cold War.'
  • Sarah Tilley - 'Interesting insight into the double lives of spies, although not your usual spy tale.'
  • Sue Broom - 'In a thriller that had me holding my breath at times, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Cold War, particularly in America, pervades.  A terrific book and I'd recommend it highly.'
  • Cathy Small - 'Little did Laura realise how life changing her trip across the ocean would be but she joins someone who ideals and lifestyle is completed different to hers. This is the start of her journey.'
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'This is could have been one of the greats of factitious writing but I found my patience and stamina lacking as the life of Laura unfolds during pre and post World War 2.'
  • Edel Waugh - 'The story is interesting, the description of Laura at that time in history is believable and the ending was very satisfying.'
  • Genevieve McAllister - 'A clever and interesting study of women's roles in the society and politics during the Second World War and immediately afterwards.'
  • Cathy Petersen - 'What price a double life? An absorbing tale of idealism, love, betrayal and paranoia set in the early years of the Cold War.'
  • Carrie Johnson - 'An intriguing tale of double lives, scandals & lies as the grey world of spies is brought to life with a totally believable story.'
  • Angie Rhodes - 'This is for everyone, who wants a change from the usual Boy Meets Girl, this is full of action, romance, and spies. I loved it.'
  • Suzanne Marsh - 'A Quite Life is Natasha Walter’s (author of seminal non-fiction The New Feminism and Living Dolls’ first novel and is a beautiful work of fiction.'
  • Elisabeth Thomas - 'A very enjoyable book even for those who are not fans of the spy genre.'
  • Vicky-Leigh Sayer - 'A beautifully written debut historical fiction novel, full of mystery, intrigue, suspense and love. Shows we are all capable of living a double life no matter how innocent we seem.'
  • Glenda Worth - 'A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter is the story of Laura who lives a double life - a woman of society and also an undercover agent during WW2.'
  • Francesca Ashurst - 'a compelling narrative, beautifully written and which addresses a neglected and fascinating area of recent history, the role of women in the world of espionage.'
  • Linde Merrick - 'a real page-turner that grips the imagination and builds to a cliff-hanger conclusion.'
  • Maureen Gourlay - 'A well written and absorbing first novel by the author. Spanning the years from 1939-1953 in America, England and Switzerland we go through WW2 with Laura and how it disturbingly shapes her life.'
  • Ann Peet - 'London during the war, Washington at the height of McCarthyism. Laura, inspired by the idealism of communism and yet part of the upper class world. A brilliant novel about love and politics.'

Win tickets to the Borders Book Festival!

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We have 4 tickets (2 pairs) to give away to one lucky winner to attend two Walter Scott Prize events taking place at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival on Saturday 17 June 2017. One pair of tickets is for a panel event with shortlisted authors, and the other is for the Prize event in which the winner is announced and presented. Click here to find out more about the Borders Book Festival.

Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter. Multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once and the prize cannot be exchanged for cash and does not include transport or accommodation. Draw closes on 2 May 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly from all entrants and will be notified by 14 May 2017.

Enter prize draw Draw closes: 02/05/2017


A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter

Wife. Mother. Spy. A double life is no life at all. Since the disappearance of her husband in 1951, Laura Leverett has been living in limbo with her daughter in Geneva. All others see is her conventional, charming exterior; nobody guesses the secret she is carrying. Her double life began years ago, when she stepped on to the boat which carried her across the Atlantic in 1939. Eager to learn, and eager to love, she found herself suddenly inspired by a young Communist woman she met on the boat. In London she begins to move between two different worlds - from the urbane society of her cousins and their upper class friends, to the anger of those who want to forge a new society. One night at a party she meets a man who seems to her to combine both worlds, but who is hiding a secret bigger than she could ever imagine. Impelled by desire, she finds herself caught up in his hidden life. Love grows, but so do fear and danger. This is the warm-blooded story of the Cold War. The story of a wife whose part will take her from London in the Blitz, to Washington at the height of McCarthyism, to the possible haven of the English countryside. Gradually she learns what is at stake for herself, her husband, and her daughter; gradually she realises the dark consequences of her youthful idealism.


Praise for A Quiet Life:

'A tour de force. Walter has taken us inside a life in hiding, in a novel about love, about political ideals and about the entrapment both create
Linda Grant

Praise for Natasha Walter's non-fiction:

'A must-read'

'Spare and spirited elegance'

The New Statesman

'Wonderfully written'

'Elegant and thought-provoking'
The Times

Allison Pearson, The Daily Mail

About the Author

Natasha Walter

Natasha Walter has worked as a journalist, columnist and reviewer for Vogue, the Guardian, the Observer and the Independent, has judged the Booker Prize, and is the founder of the charity Women for Refugee Women.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th February 2017


Natasha Walter

More books by Natasha Walter
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Author's Website


The Borough Press an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


448 pages


Literary Fiction
Thriller / Suspense
Debuts of the Month
Historical Fiction

Espionage & spy thriller



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