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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Updated: Mar 25, 2020

I never thought my first blog post would be like this. But here I am, holed up in my house with my family, tapping out my first blog. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Camelia, tulips and primrose are thriving in my garden. There is an unusual tranquillity in my under-the-Heathrow-flight-path town. Yet despite this beauty and comforting calm, somewhere in our metropolis, teams of NHS staff are working flat out to get Covid patients through darkest hours.

The contrast is stark.

We all know about the booming business of toilet paper and pasta. There has also been an uptick in book sales in the past weeks. This is a glimmer of good news for publishing in an uncertain time. But the coronavirus has brought much disappointment to authors whose books are launching during these months of social distancing. Book launch parties, literary festivals, and media events have all been cancelled in quick secession, stealing moments in the spotlight from authors who are bringing their books into the world. This is particularly painful for debut authors.

The path to publishing a book is long and hilly, filled with dashed hopes, disappointments, and an occasional ecstatic high. Thousands of books are written every year and never find a publisher so when a writer finally finds a publisher who agrees to take their book to market, THIS IS A VERY BIG DEAL. Countless hours are spent polishing a manuscript alongside an editor and copyeditor and most of us will probably not make much money out of the venture. Of course there is a rare debut star, but the vast majority of authors are driven by something else other than financial reward.

This brings me to the purpose of this blog. When considering your quarantine reading list, please have a look at books published by debut authors. You can find a list of some of the 2020 debuts from the first half of the year at the end of this post. Many are published by large traditional publishers others are from small independents (like my Lightning Books) who are paddling like mad to stay afloat in the best of times. You can also follow @viraldebuts on twitter for updates. Google some of the debut titles. If one of them piques your interest, please purchase (preferably directly from a little independent publisher or from a local bookshop). If you enjoy the book, leave a positive review on Amazon or Goodreads. Good reviews are like gold dust and when you post one you make an author very, very happy. Couldn’t we all do with a bit more happiness these days?

Hope this blog finds you safely at home.

Keep calm and read a debut.

2020 Debut Books

January

Molly Aitken - The Island Child - Canongate UK (US July 28th from Knopf) (I’m reading this one now. Just on first chapter-gorgeous writing.)

February

Clare Pooley - The Authenticity Project - USA Hardback, audio, ebook

Rachel Marks - Saturdays at Noon

Philippa East - Little White Lies: paperback, audio and e-book with HQ/HarperCollins

Sairish Hussain- The Family Tree (Hardback, audio, e-book)

March

Tim Ewins-We Are Animals-(Lightning Books e-book) (Just finished this. Fun escapism!)

Syliva Petter-All the Beautiful Liars-(Lightning Books e-book) (On my TBR)

Abi Dare’-The Girl with Louding Voice (Beautifully written Nigerian story.)

Hannah Persaud-Codes of Love (Saucy tale of an open marriage gone wrong. Great page turner.)

Eleni Kyriacou - She Came to Stay (Hardback, audio, e-book)

Jane Healey - The Animals at Lockwood Manor (Hardback, audio, ebook)

Louise Hare - This Lovely City (Hardback, audio and ebook)

Trevor Wood-The Man on the Street (hardback, e-book, audio)

S.V. Bekvalac-iRemember (Lightning Books e-book)

April

Mandy Jameson-Landsliding (Lightning Books e-book)

Nikki Smith - All In Her Head (Hardback, Trade Paperback & EBook)

Susan Allott (UK Hardback & Ebook) - The Silence

Clare Pooley -The Authenticity Project (UK hardback, audio, ebook) Exact date tbc.

May

Louise Fein - People Like Us - UK Hardback, ebook, Audio (Can’t wait to read this!)

Louise Fein - Daughter of the Reich (US title) - USA Trade paperback, Audio, ebook.

Abigail Mann - The Lonely Fajita - UK and US ebook, Audio

Penny Batchelor - My Perfect Sister - UK paperback and ebook

Susan Allott - The Silence (US Hardback & Ebook)

Gillian Harvey - Everything is Fine (Orion) UK paperback and audio

Kristen Hesketh-Another Us (e-book)

June

Holly Race - Midnight’s Twins (format TBC)

Luce Brett - PMSL - Or How I Literally Pissed Myself Laughing and survived the Last Taboo To Tell The Tale (UK Hardcover, India, Ebook/audio TBC, Bloomsbury)

Mary Hargreaves-This is Not a Love Story




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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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