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It’s 1978, Jess is thirteen and she already has a reputation – as the daughter of the only communist in town. But then, it’s in the blood. The Mitchells have been in the Party since the Party began. Jess and her mother Eleanor struggle to sell socialism to Tamworth – a sleepy Midlands town that just doesn’t want to know.

So when Eleanor is invited to spend a summer teaching in East Germany, she and Jess leap at the chance to see what the future looks like. On the other side of the Iron Curtain they turn from villains into heroes. And when Eleanor meets widower Peter and his daughter, Martina, a new, more peaceful life seems possible.

But the Cold War has no time for love and soon the trouble starts. Peter is dispatched for two years of solidarity work in Laos. Friends become enemies, and Jess discovers how easy it is to switch sides – how sides can be switched for you, sometimes without you even knowing.

Motherland book cover

is a tender mother-daughter story and a tragi-comic portrait of a childhood overcome with belief. It’s about loss of faith and loss of innocence, and what it’s like to grow up on the losing side of history.

Motherland was published by John Murray in 2015, and by Ullstein as Paradise Ost in German in 2016.

Jo and Isobel

Jo und Isobel McMillan, Pädagogische Hochschule „Karl Liebknecht“, Potsdam 1978

© Jo McMillan 2024