The Double Life of Katharine Clark: The Untold Story of the Fearless Journalist Who Risked Her Life for Truth and Justice (Suspenseful and Propulsive Historical Narrative Nonfiction)

Written by Katharine Gregorio
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Katharine Clark was a foreign correspondent reporting for American news services from Yugoslavia in the mid-1950s after Marshal Josip Broz Tito broke from Soviet leadership and began forming an independent Communist country. Katharine and her husband Ed, a correspondent for Time and Life magazines, became friends with Milovan Djilas and his wife Steffie. Djilas was heir apparent to Tito until his outspoken opposition to Stalinism and push for democratic reforms led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1956.

The Double Life of Katharine Clark recounts Katharine’s role in getting Djilas’ views published in the United States, including articles critical of the Yugoslav regime and Communism itself and his iconic work The New Class. The book, which compares Communists in Eastern Europe to capitalists and landowners they had supplanted, was the first time a Communist leader criticized the socialist form of government and sold 3 million copies in 1957.

The book is well-researched, presenting details about Katharine’s role as editor and courier, including actual correspondence. It describes the precautions Katharine and Djilas have to take to keep their work secret from spying eyes—running water from spigots and playing loud music while Djilas tells his story and Katharine types his words.

Missing is the sense of import. Djilas’ work was groundbreaking, yet there is little discussion of it or Katharine’s views of it. The story focuses on the messenger and leaves, at least this reader, wanting far more of the message and why it was so important for Katharine to take risks to get it out.