Molly Gartland is the author of The Girl from the Hermitage which was published by Lightning Books on 1 September 2020.
Molly kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Girl from the Hermitage.
It is the story of an artist, Galina Senotrusova, who survives the siege of Leningrad as a young girl. The novel dips into her life as a child, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. The novel arcs from the old communist era, with its obvious terrors and its more surprising comforts, into the bling of 21st-century St Petersburg.
2. What inspired the book?
The Girl from the Hermitage is inspired by a portrait which I bought in Moscow in 1999. When I learned that the artist, Ludmilla Sgibneva, had survived the siege of Leningrad and was alive and painting today, I was fascinated by her. Using a handful of facts from Ludmilla’s life, I created Galina and her story.
3.Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I’m a pantser! Although I wish I was more of a planner.
4. Having been through the publishing process, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
I can’t believe how many times I read my own book while editing. My novel is slim so it was quite easy to do but I have no idea how an author would repeatedly plow through a thick tome during the editing process. I’ll stick with slim books!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I enjoy tennis, walking, cooking and of course travel but I’m trying not to think about that much these days.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I would choose a book that I have not read before but have always planned to read. Something inspirational and quite thick so that it could be read and re-read. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela would tick all those boxes.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Nothing springs to mind. Does that make me boring?
About the Book
It is December 1941, and eight-year-old Galina and her friend Vera are caught in the siege of Leningrad, eating wallpaper soup and dead rats. Galina s artist father Mikhail has been kept away from the front to help save the treasures of the Hermitage. Its cellars could provide a safe haven, as long as Mikhail can survive the perils of a commission from one of Stalin s colonels.
Three decades on, Galina is a teacher at the Leningrad Art Institute. What ought to be a celebratory weekend at her forest dacha turns sour when she makes an unwelcome discovery. The painting she starts 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 her world changes out of all recognition.