Book Review: The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff

ambassador The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Harlequin Mira, February 2013

 Synopsis- Paris, 1919.The world’s leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.

Review- Set in Paris, 1919, The Ambassador’s Daughter takes place following the Great War. Margot Rosenthal is the daughter of a German Diplomat involved in a conference attaining to a peace treaty. Margot is relieved to be away with her father, avoiding her return to Berlin where her wounded fiancé Stefan awaits. In some ways she is unhappy about being in Paris where she is often discriminated against due to her German heritage and at times she feels a little lost.

But when she befriends a charismatic Polish musician named Krysia her curiosity of taking a different path in life is sparked. I think she idolised the Krysia’s sophisticated life and at just 20, Margot had little life experience compared to her new friend. She presents as naive and ambivalent about her future. Through Krysia, Margot is also introduced to a man who takes advantage of Margot’s intimate knowledge of her father’s work and intimidates her into being an informant.

A chance encounter with a handsome German naval officer, Georg leads to an opportunity for Margot to undertake translating written correspondence and she revels in this new sense of purpose this job provides. She quickly develops a friendship with Georg who in most respects is a loner and emotionally damaged but through their work and their chats they begin to connect. Desperate to keep Georg’s affections, Margot does not disclose her engagement and begins to fall in love with him. When Margot’s fiancé unexpectedly arrives in Paris, keen to set a wedding date, her past quickly catches up with her present and she struggles to make a decision about her future.

I expected this story to focus more on the political aspects of post war but The Ambassador’s Daughter seemed to focus more on Margot’s personal dilemmas and the budding romance between her and Georg. I did like the connection between these two characters and even though it was written in first viewpoint, the author was able to create a well-rounded character in Georg and I did warm to him despite his restricted affect.

I was also quite engaged by Margot’s viewpoint and was drawn into the story, but I did find the ending quite frustrating. The way in which the conflict with Stefan was resolved was a little far-fetched and absolved Margot of taking any responsibility for her situation. In fact I felt as though Margot shied away from taking charge of her life in many aspects, despite this being the predominant inner conflict expressed throughout the story. She wasn’t honest with Stefan, she didn’t really confront Georg with her feelings and in fact several times had every intention of leaving without saying goodbye but he managed to track her down. Some of her actions seemed a bit cowardly and then suddenly by the end she has the courage to go off and travel. This aspect of Margot’s characterisation wasn’t fleshed out well enough and it left me feeling a little disappointed by the ending after a promising journey.

Despite my difficulties with the growth in Margot as a character and the ending, I did find the story engaging, I loved the setting (I’ll be in Paris in a couple of months!) and the post-war setting was quite different to most historical fiction novels I’ve read before.

Overall Rating

3.5/5

“I really liked this”

The Ambassador’s Daughter can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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