The Secret Wife
Two stories. Two very different women, linked by the secrets of history.
2016. After a devastating revelation, Kitty flees to her great-grandfather’s cabin on the shore of Lake Akanabee, New York State. There she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to an extraordinary, long-buried family secret… 1914. Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with injured cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger…Scroll down to read reviews and book group questions
Reviews of The Secret Wife
“An enthralling story: the heartbreak genuine, the research brilliant. I love the way the present narrative throws light on the past story” Dinah Jefferies
“An absorbing story that cleverly blends imagination with historical fact. Tragic, touching and authentic” Kate Riordan
“A marvellous story: gripping, romantic and evocative of a turbulent and fascinating time” Lulu Taylor
“A wonderful Russian babushka doll of a novel, each chapter revealing new and intriguing layers. A heart-warming affirmation of the tenacity of human love” Liz Trenow
“This engrossing, heart-wrenching novel moves between the decades, combining history with fiction to portray the tragic events of the Russian Revolution” Sunday Express
“Meticulously researched and evocatively written, this sweeping story will keep a tight hold on your heartstrings until the final page” Iona Grey
“Gill Paul has crafted a beautiful book. The passages set in Russia in 1914 are so richly described and researched that I felt as if I was living in the pages myself. I adored it.” Amanda Jennings
“This is an intriguing and involving book that explores a really fascinating period in time in a clever and highly enjoyable way. I was hooked into both timelines from the start.” Joanna Courtney
“A beautiful and moving story, beautifully and movingly told. I read it in just two sittings… I enjoyed every page” John Julius Norwich
“This was just magical. At the last line, tears rolled down my cheeks. Highly recommended.” Louise Beech
Reading group questions
1. Frederick Forsythe said of historical fiction: “It’s alright to say that Hitler won the Second World War, but all hell will break loose if you say that Green Park is on the Northern Line.” In other words, get the details right but feel free to take liberties with the main events. Clearly, The Secret Wife takes liberties with the history of the Romanovs. Do you think these were justified and that it still remains convincing as a story?
2. Dmitri is a morally flawed character, who makes a disastrous decision in Ekaterinburg. Do you, as a reader, forgive him for this and sympathise with his anguish? If so, why? And if not, why not?
3. Dmitri also makes mistakes in his relationship with his children, mistakes that reverberate down the generations. Is there anything in his background that might have led to this emotional inadequacy as an adult?
4. Did you sense any genetic similarities between Kitty and Dmitri?
5. The Kitty story is shorter and much less dramatic than Dmitri’s. Its role is partly to provide a way of explaining Romanov history to readers who might not be familiar with it. Did this work for you or do you think the stories in ‘timeslip’ novels need to be of equal weight? How did the movement from one story to the other work for you?
6. The Russian part of the story is told from Dmitri’s point of view. This means that the reader can only hear about events that he witnessed. Would you have preferred an all-seeing narrator who could have given more information about the Russian army during the war, and about the Russian Revolution?
7. Why do you think the author decided against presenting the narrative from Tatiana’s point of view?
8. What did you think about the creation of a sense of place in the novel’s main locations: Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk, Ekaterinburg, Berlin and Lake Akanabee. Did it make you want to visit any of them?