Friday, April 19, 2013

REVIEW: The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff

Synopsis (from Amazon): 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 fiancee 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.

My Thoughts: The war is at an end and Margot Rosenthal, daughter to the Ambassador of Germany sent to represent the country as part of its delegation at the Treaty of Versailles, elects to accompany her father to Paris.  Margot is a conflicted young woman who is uncertain of her future.  Is it with Stefan, the fiance injured on the front lines that she grew up with and agreed to marry  before he left?  Or is it somewhere else?  Margot isn't sure.  All she knows is she feels stifled by her family's expectations for her.  Even in Paris Margot is  bored with the endless dinner parties and tired of the veiled resentments directed towards her as a German national-that is until she meets Krysia, a Polish musician who intrigues Margot.  Hoping to fend off her loneliness by securing Krysia's friendship, Margot discloses some sensitive information in front of Krysia's friends which leads her to danger.  Further complicating matters is handsome German Officer Georg who arrives with the German delegation.  As Margot spends more time with this intelligent but troubled man her life is thrown further into confusion.

Not having read much about World War I, I was eager to pick up this book.  It was not quite what I expected as it was lighter on the history since our narrator Margot is not directly involved in many of the events occurring, and heavier on the romance.  The story really picks up when Margot places herself in the aforementioned sticky situation and now must decide if she will do what is necessary to extricate herself from it or keep trying to in vain to find an alternative way out of her troubles.  Margot's unlikely friendship with the communist leaning Krysia was also well done.  Of all the characters Georg stuck with me the most as the handsome idealist who has such great hopes for Germany even now when they have suffered such a devastating defeat.  I think I had a wee bit of crush on him as I read along.

There were two problems with this book for me.  The biggest one?  Margot!  I understand the girl is only 20 years old but for someone of her intelligence she comes off as completely clueless at times.  Also in regards to her injured fiancee Stefan, she employs the avoidance tactic instead of actually dealing with her feelings.  This of course means the poor guy is left hanging and is treated much worse than he deserves by the indecisive Margot.  It may have been my modern girl sensibilities creeping in, but as I read along I grew increasingly frustrated with Margot and wanted to shout at her "Just make a decision already!"   My second problem was that the drama in some parts of the book felt a bit exaggerated, especially in regards to Margot's unfortunate situation and the resolution of her troubles with Stefan.  The latter seemed entirely too soap opera-esque to me.  That being said I did like this book.  I just wished it included a bit more history and a heroine that was a bit more likable. 

I was unaware at the start of the book that this is a prequel to Jenoff's novel The Kommandant's Girl so if you haven't read this author yet this book would be the place to start.  The edition of The Ambassador's Daughter I read was the Kindle version which included the first Chapter of The Kommandant's Girl at the end of the book.  I read it and was completely sucked in so I plan on plucking it off my shelf and reading it shortly.

I received this book from the publisher for review via NetGalley.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.