Book Title and Author: The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul
Publication Date and Publisher: August 27, 2019 by William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 496 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: August 23, 2019 (e-arc)
1918: Pretty, vivacious Grand Duchess Maria Romanov, the nineteen-year-old daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II, lives with her family in suffocating isolation, a far cry from their once-glittering royal household. Her days are a combination of endless boredom and paralyzing fear; her only respite are clandestine flirtations with a few of the guards imprisoning the family—never realizing her innocent actions could mean the difference between life and death
1973: When Val Doyle hears her father’s end-of-life confession, “I didn’t want to kill her,” she’s stunned. So, she begins a search for the truth—about his words and her past. The clues she discovers are baffling—a jewel-encrusted box that won’t open and a camera with its film intact. What she finds out pulls Val into one of the world’s greatest mysteries—what truly happened to the Grand Duchess Maria?
I fell in love with Gill Paul’s writing when I read Another Woman’s Husband last year and The Lost Daughter is another brilliant, extraordinary book and probably the most wonderful historical fiction novel that I’ve read all year.
Give me a novel about European royalty, and I’m immediately hooked. I’ve always been fascinated by what happened to the Romanovs and about the people who later claimed to be surviving members of the family, so I couldn’t wait to read Paul’s factual account of the Romonav’s last few months spent at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, their final “home” so flawlessly combined with a “what-if” alternative account of the fate of Maria Romanov, the middle daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. According to history, the Tsar, Tsarina, and their four children were brutally murdered in July 2018, but what becomes of the sweet and lovely Maria in this alternative story?
The story is told in two timelines, the one that begins in 1918 with the assassination of the Romanov family among all the turmoil and fighting in Russia with Lenin seizing power and then moving forward to 1970s Australia where we meet a young mother, Val, trying to find a way to leave her terribly abusive husband.
When Val gets a call from a nursing home that her father who she’s estranged from has dementia, she visits. It’s there he repeatedly keeps confessing that “I didn’t want to kill her,” which leaves her confused and shocked. Does he mean her mother who she hasn’t seen or heard of in years? It’s a mystery she wants to solve, especially after he dies and she finds out many things that had been hidden in his past.
The huge amount of historical research done in the novel is quite obvious as Paul writes about the siege of Leningrad and beyond. It was hard not to read this book while in tears as you felt the character’s sorrows, fears, and anguishes. It was just heartbreaking. Paul has such a striking ability to bring her characters to life; they’re so realistic and I felt like I knew them intimately.
I honestly had no idea how Val’s story would link to the ongoing story in Russia and when it did, I was overwhelmed by how amazingly Paul had entwined the two storylines, both of which I loved equally. The Lost Daughter is such a powerful book about courage, hope, endurance, survival, suffering, hardship, loss, strength, and family and it’s also a gorgeous love story, one that left me finishing the book just sobbing. I think when you grow to love the characters so much that you are an emotional mess, then you’ve truly loved and connected to the story as I did this one.
Paul is a master storyteller; she’s an artist with her words, and I cannot recommend that you read The Lost Daughter more! I will most definitely be waiting to read her next book!
**Thank you Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC copy. All opinions are my own.**