The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff

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The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Excellent evocation of the atmosphere in Paris after the end of the Great War, but I couldn't warm to the heroine. It's a prequel and you might feel differently if you've read the two books which have aready been published.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Mira
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848452039

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In 1919 the Great War - the First World War - was over and all that was left was to work out the terms of the peace treaty. Margot Rosenthal accompanied her father, a diplomat, to Paris, where he was part of the German delegation and in the invidious position of being disliked by the French because he was the enemy and mistrusted by fellow members of the delegation because he was Jewish. They'd previously been in England where they'd simply been the enemy. Margot could have gone home to Berlin but that would have taken her back to her fiance, who'd been seriously injured in the war. She'd rather fallen into the engagement, feeling that it was what she ought to do. Passion played no part.

Then, in Paris, she met Captain Georg Richwalder, a handsome naval officer who believed that there could be a future for the German military machine in maintaining the post-war peace. He was everything that Stefan, her fiance, was not. There was a dangerous attraction between the two. Margot also became involved with Krysia Smok, a Polish pianist, who introduced her to a group of political activists who were quick to realise that she could be of use to them. Margot, who'd always been protected by her father after losing her mother at an early age, found that she had to question her loyalties.

It's a deceptively ingenious plot, which sees Margot drawn further and further into a situation which she can neither understand nor escape. It's a little contrived in places, but that's mitigated by the brilliant evocation of the post war atmosphere in Paris and then at Versailles - the miasma of mistrust and superficial sense of a bridge 'being seen to be built' to Germany's future which hides the fact that a brutal penalty is going to be needed. Not only do you feel that you're there but it's done entirely by showing rather than telling.

For me there was one major problem with the book and that was Margot herself. I simply could not warm to her. She's self-centred and selfish. In any situation her first thought is always for herself and she's weak at an age when she should be making mature decisions. As a minor character it would not have mattered - I could have enjoyed disliking her - but I didn't feel that she carried the story well. The Ambassador's Daughter is a prequel to Kommandant's Girl and Diplomat's Wife, neither of which I've read and you might feel differently about Margot if you've read what happens later - if that doesn't sound too convoluted.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

For more from Pam Jenoff we can recommend The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff. For more about the repercussions from the Great War we think you'll enjoy Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell.

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