Charlotte at her grandfather Kim Philby's desk in Moscow, in 2010. Copyright: Barney Beech

Researching Edith and Kim was a whirlwind tour through 1930s Vienna, the Bauhaus, and London’s iconic Isokon building, arriving at the desk at which my grandfather wrote home to England after defecting to Moscow.

Parts of the Kim section of the book I have been writing for years, in my head and in sketches here and there. But by the time I first put pen to paper in a bid to bring to life the woman who had recruited him to the NKVD – a woman who changed the course of history and yet had been written out of it in every version of the story I had read to date – England had gone into its first lockdown.

Instantly, the six-month European I had planned, staying with my cousin in Vienna and at the Bauhaus museum in Dessau, was thwarted. Instead, I have spent the past year and a half wandering the abandoned streets of Belsize Park and Marylebone and Mayfair where much of the London action takes place – and transported to other worlds entirely with the help of some wonderful reading (and watching) material.

With the March 2022 publication date for my new literary novel – available for preorder here – fast-approaching, I wanted to share some of those works which really helped bring my version of the story of Edith and Kim to life.

Jack Pritchard’s View from a Long Chair is a memoir by Isokon co-founder and the man behind the infamous Lawn Road Flats, a hot-bed for spies and bed-swapping (and one-time home to Agatha Christie), replete with original photos.

The home of Jack and Molly Pritchard, in the penthouse of the Isokon Building

Tracking Edith is a painstakingly-researched film by documentary film-maker and Edith’s great-nephew, Peter Stephan Jungk, which pieces together his aunt’s life through conversations with historians, family members and ex-KGB agents.

More than just a beautifully curated photo-book, In the Shadow of Tyranny by Duncan Forbes draws a line through Edith’s life as a photographer, committed Communist and single mother to a mentally ill child.

This book draws a line through Edith’s life as a photographer, committed Communist and single mother to a mentally ill child

Our Bauhaus: Memories of Bauhaus People by Magdalena Droste is a glorious compendium immortalising the hopes, dreams and anecdotes of original Bauhaus students and teachers. And what stories they are.

Edith and Kim is published by Borough Press on 31 March 2022

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Book festivals 2021

By , 19th August 2021
Features
From a celebration of the life of John le Carré at Cheltenham to an exploration of women and crime in Chiswick, please join me at one of the following events, across the country (and the internet!)