Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Review: The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul

Who hasn't been intrigued by the fate of the Romanov family? Despite bodies and DNA evidence discovered outside of Ekaterinburg, there has long been speculation that one of the royal daughters, generally Anastasia, survived the execution and was rescued. Could anyone has survived the chaotic terror? In Gill Paul's most recent novel, it isn't Anastasia who survived, but Maria. The Lost Daughter is the story of her long life in hiding and the strange connection of this life to an abused wife in Australia.

In 1918, when the Romanovs were imprisoned in Ipatiev House, their circumstances were much reduced from what they had once enjoyed. Middle daughter Maria is bored but she is a pretty, charming, and outgoing young woman who cannot help but make friends with their guards, winning the men over with her genuine interest in them and their lives. She is sincerely unable to understand just how much danger she personally and her family collectively are in. And then the unimaginable happens. Her entire family is killed. Miraculously she survives and one of the young guards who she had previously befriended pulls her from the pile of bodies, runs into the woods, and takes her to safety. Peter is a good man and while they are on the run, he and Maria come to fall in love with each other, setting the course for the rest of their lives.

The novel jumps from the drama of the last days of tsarist Russia to 1973 in Australia where Val, a housewife who defied her father to marry young and without a school certificate, is trapped in a brutal and abusive marriage. Val has been estranged from her emotionally frigid, Russian father for seventeen years when she receives a call that he has been saying worrying things at his care home. He's been repeating "I didn't want to kill her" and Val is worried that he is referring to her Chinese mother, who disappeared when she was a young teenager. After his death, she is no closer to answers than she was before it but she becomes certain of one thing for sure: that she must take her daughter and leave her husband.

The novel moves back and forth between the seemingly unrelated stories of Maria and Val, from the terror of living through Stalin's purges and the horror of the siege of Leningrad to the struggle of a woman who doesn't even have the right to sue for divorce nor to expect child support. As Maria learns to live as one of the people, she is saved time and time again by her enduring love with Peter. She endures terrible hardship and great heartbreak but also the joy of family and the love of children. She knows who she is and the truth of her life even if that knowledge has to remain a secret. Val's life is full of secrets too. But it will take quite an effort to find out the truth of her mother's disappearance and her father's past. The way that the novel ultimately ties Maria's story with Val's is interesting and well done. The parallels between Maria and Val are subtle but there. Both are survivors willing to endure anything in the creating of a life worth living. Each has been victimized in horrible ways but finds the grace and resilience to build on the ashes of their pasts. In the early going, Maria's story is far more engaging than Val's but as the novel continues and Val starts to uncover the answers she seeks, her story takes on added interest as well. I had one small quibble with the novel in that Maria's children have the patronymic Alexandrovich/Alexandrovna when in fact it should have been Petrovich/Petrovna given their father's name is Peter and not Alexander. Other than that mistake, Paul has done an amazing amount of research and integrated the vast history of Russia and the Soviet Union into the narrative without ever making the reader feel as if they are reading a dry historical account. In fact, despite numbering almost 500 pages, I read this in one sitting, gripped by my interest in Maria and invested in finding out how Val's life connected to this Russian Grand Duchess. I predict that other historical fiction fans will thoroughly enjoy this alternate history and perhaps it will even leave them wishing that one of the daughters, and this daughter in particular, had escaped.

For more information about Gill Paul and the book, check our her author website, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to pull the book off my shelf to read and review.

1 comment:

  1. Wow- the fact you read a novel of this length in one sitting is enough to make me want to read this! Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours


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