It is December 1941, and eight-year-old Galina and her friend Vera are caught in the siege of Leningrad, eating soup made of wallpaper, with the occasional luxury of a dead rat. Galina’s artist father Mikhail has been kept away from the front to help save the treasures of the Hermitage. Its cellars could now provide a safe haven, provided Mikhail can navigate the perils of a portrait commission from one of Stalin’s colonels.

Nearly forty years later, Galina herself is a teacher at the Leningrad Art Academy. What ought to be a celebratory weekend at her forest dacha turns sour when she makes an unwelcome discovery. The painting she embarks upon that day will hold a grim significance for the rest of her life, as the old Soviet Union makes way for the new Russia and Galina’s familiar world changes out of all recognition.

Warm, wise and utterly enthralling, Molly Gartland’s debut novel guides us from the old communist world, with its obvious terrors and its more surprising comforts, into the glitz and bling of 21st-century St Petersburg. Galina’s story is at once a compelling page-turner and an insightful meditation on ageing and nostalgia.

E-book available worldwide.

Paperback available in the USA and UK.

*I receive a small percentage of the profits on purchases made on my bookshop.org page.

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Well, here we are 1 year since the UK launch of of my debut novel, The Girl from the Hermitage. I haven’t posted on my blog in quite a while so I thought I would take a bit of time to look back on the rollercoaster year of being a debut novelist.


While publishing a novel has not been wildly lucrative, the experience of putting my book baby out into the world has been rewarding in many other ways. There have been pleasant surprises throughout a year which has been such a difficult time for everyone.


In no particular order, here are some of the highlights:


1. My hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan has been wonderful. Over this past year I have felt so very far away from my parents and my roots but Kalamazoo has come through to support me in many ways. I’ve received encouragement from former teachers, friends, family and the community at large. I had a brilliant digital session with the Kalamazoo Russian Cultural Association. Bookbug has kept my novel stocked on their shelf. And the Kalamazoo Institute of Art invited me to speak at their book club. All of these events have contributed to make Kalamazoo the epicentre of my US sales. I know I can count on the Zoo!


2. Comradery with other authors. Early on in 2020, my friend and fellow author Louise Fein got me involved with a brilliant debut author group. Throughout the year, we have supported, commiserated, and celebrated together. We’ve created promotional opportunities and have had a good laugh. Publishing is a crazy industry and it is great to know that we can have a good moan in the safety of our Facebook group. This talented group of authors have produced a wide variety of books and you can see our powerhouse of publications on our bookshop page.


3. Stretching out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned so many new skills since writing my debut. I made this website. I’ve become comfortable with public speaking. I’ve set up digital events on Eventbrite. I didn’t even know how to use Twitter and Instagram before all of this kicked off! It has been brilliant to stretch and grow in a year that made our worlds smaller and smaller.


4. Hearing from readers has been a delight. I love getting messages from readers who have enjoyed my book. And they always seem to land in my mailbox right when I need it the most. My Girl may have resonated or reached a reader in a very personal way or perhaps they simply enjoyed reading it. Here’s a flavour of some of the messages I’ve received:

· My dad was born in Russia (he came to the US in 1910) and I wish he were here to read The Girl from the Hermitage..

· As an 84 year old watercolourist with everything I need to begin oil painting except the courage to put a canvas on the easel, I was inspired by all the descriptions of Galina and her father preparing to paint.

· I have never been to Russia or St Petersburg but I felt as if I was there at every moment. And I so loved most of the characters, Mikhail, Galina, Boris - all painted with such a fine brush.

· I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I was transported back to our days in the Russia of the 1990’s, to the stories of artists we met just trying to survive in the new Russia and to the progeny of prisoners of the gulags.

· The Girl from the Hermitage is a great story. It has incredibly interesting characters, is well-written, and was very hard to put down each night because it kept me wanting to read more! This was a perfect book for me.

· I lived in the former Soviet Union the same years you lived in Moscow. I so enjoyed your description of the foods, seeing the words I remember and the experience of life there.

· It is wonderful. I loved the real characters, the captivating story, the Russian setting and history and the painting. You must be an artist as well as an author as I felt as though I was doing the painting as you described the character painting.

· Incredibly touching, subtle and beautiful book. I’m so glad I discovered this wonderful American author with an understanding of the Russian soul and culture.


It has been a great year, despite all the noise and anxiety of our poxy world. And I am thrilled that The Girl from the Hermitage has made its way into so many hands. To everyone who has bought my book, enthusiastically recommended it to people, taken it out from the library, given it as a gift, written a review or posted about it on social media, I thank you! Debut authors need as much help as we can muster and I’ve had so many people go out of their way to give my book a little boost. THANK YOU. And happy birthday to my Hermitage Girl.


Have I mentioned The Girl from the Hermitage makes an excellent Christmas gift???







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  • mollygartland

Updated: May 17

I am delighted to be involved with three digital events in May. Each event has different content but they are all free and open to anyone around the world.



Stay at Home Lit Fest

May 1st, 3pm UK, 10 am Eastern US

Ripples Through Time: Finding Inspiration for Historical Fiction

I will be on a panel with three historical fiction novelists (Debra Barnes, Poppy Cooper and Nguyen Phan Que Mai). We will be talking about the inspiration behind our books and how real events influence plot and character. This international panel will discuss books set in Vietnam, France, Russia and the UK. This will be a great conversation. If you missed the event, you can watch a recording here.



West Hollywood Russian Arts & Culture Festival

May 15, 10am Pacific, 6 pm UK

How did a gal from Kalamazoo end up writing a novel set in Russia?

The Girl from the Hermitage is not about my experiences of living in Russia, but it would have been impossible for me to write this book without having lived there in the 90s. I’ll be talking about how my time in Russia influenced the novel and my experiences of living in Russia in the 90s. If you missed this event, the recording is available here.





Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

May 19, 2pm Eastern, 7 pm UK

I will be the guest author at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts book discussion group. This will be a Q&A about The Girl from the Hermitage and anyone is welcome to join the conversation. My hometown has been wonderful in supporting my book and I look forward to this conversation. I don't think this will be recorded. Register here.

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  • mollygartland


A new platform for selling books has launched onto the UK market just in time for Christmas and Lockdown 2.0. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to bookshop.org. This is a site with an innovative strategy and the lofty aim of taking on The Evil Empire that is Amazon (gasp!). 75% of profits generated on Bookshop.org are shared out to independent bookshops, publications, authors and other influencers who make up the thriving book industry. Learn more about their ethos here.

I have set up a shop and have included several lists of recommended books. When a purchase is made via my lists, I receive a small percentage of the profit. I have started with two lists: If you liked The Girl from the Hermitage, you might like..... and a list of books I used in my research. And you can be sure a Favourite Reads of 2020 will follow in due course.

You can browse my shop here

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Bio

Originally from Michigan, Molly Gartland worked in Moscow from 1994 to 2000 and has been fascinated by Russian culture ever since.

She has an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary’s University, Twickenham and lives in London.

The manuscript for her debut novel The Girl from the Hermitage was shortlisted for the Impress Prize and longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, the Bath Novel Award and Grindstone Novel Award.

 

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