Published February 1st 2018 by Legend Press
Author: Daniela Tully
Format: Paperback (I read an uncorrected proof copy from Legend Press)
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Martha Wiesberg was a woman of strict routine: Sunday, church; Monday, lunch with her neighbor; Tuesday, book club; Wednesday, laundry press; Thursday, aerobics – all at exactly the same time each week.
When Maya was a girl, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void.
Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to. Desperate for answers, Maya begins to unravel secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond.
But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover what happened, she must decide whether her life, and a chance at love, are worth risking for the truth.
Sometimes the best stories are the ones we didn’t know we’d end up telling. Hotel on Shadow Lake is inspired by a true encounter in Daniela Tully’s life – when her Grandmother received a farewell letter from her twin brother 46 years after it was written. Tully has taken this, and written a novel which encapsulates the pain, heartache and the power of love and determination that endured despite the war and long after it.
Martha Wiesberg is the character inspired by, and named after. Tully’s own grandmother, and it’s at the beginning of the novel that she receives the letter which turns her strict, routine life upside down. The sheer significance of this letter isn’t clear at the start of the novel, only that it’s very late on arrival and is the final correspondence she will have with her twin brother. We don’t get to read the letter, and instead we hop back in time to meet Martha as a much younger girl, and it’s from there that the story begins to unfold.
There are a few time frames in this novel: We begin in 1990, then jump back to 1938. Next, we find ourselves in the present, 2017, with Maya as our main character. Maya in Martha’s granddaughter, and we quickly realise that she is tied up in a family mystery: her grandmother disappeared years ago and she doesn’t know what happened – but she is determined to find out.
“Grandmother had been her mother when Maya’s own had rejected her. Grandmother had been her friend when the other kids had bullied her. Grandmother had meant life to her.
This plot is so intricately woven, that after reading the entire book, I feel like I need to go back to the beginning to re-read the first few chapters in light of what I’ve discovered on my journey with Maya. Everything is significant, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time. I’m not usually into family drama or historical fiction, but Tully has made it the perfect combination to tell this story, and has woven in a wonderful, timeless romance.
The book starts of by making us curious, then frightened for Maya. She travels to the Montgomery Hotel, where she knows her grandmother spent her final days. She doesn’t know the connection, but it’s her determination to find out that kept me reading. I wanted to know what happened just as much as she did. Tully manages to give away just enough at any given moment, and discoveries are made through items such as a booklet from the library, and letters that re-surface. There’s also a fairy-tale, which we get to read in full, that was told to Maya by Martha, and which she now holds dear as the last thing she has of her grandmother.
For me, I wasn’t blown away by the fairy-tale. After reading it, I didn’t find it to have the level of charm and significance that was given to it as a story. I can see the message in it, but I think the most important role the fairy-tale had to play was being a story between only Martha and Maya, a secret only they are in on. Or so Maya thinks. I liked it more as a plot device than a standalone story.
The family drama aspect is complex at times, and I found myself getting confused with who each member of the Montgomery family was, but towards the end this becomes a lot clearer. And there was a definite moment of ‘ohhhh’ when I realised just who one character really was. I thought it was brilliant, and from that point on the book found it’s crescendo and everything I’d read previously started to fit nicely into place as a whole, rather than a fragmented mystery.
At its core, this is a love story. It’s a story of family history, and of a love that refuses to die.
Link to the book on Goodreads: Hotel on Shadow Lake
About the author
Daniela Tully has been working in the field of storytelling for decades, mainly in film and television. She has been involved in projects such as the critically-acclaimed Fair Game, box-office hits Contagion and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as the Oscar-winning The Help. She currently lives in Dubai.
Read an extract from the book here: Hotel on Shadow Lake extract
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Thanks to Imogen at Legend Press for the opportunity to read the book and take part in the blog tour!