Teddsoc header
  • deer
  • tedlib
  • tedlock
  • bushy-house
  • tedlitterpickers

Future events

• How a picture led to 70,000 words – and a Teddington author's publishing contract

• How a picture led to 70,000 words – and a Teddington author's publishing contract

Molly Gartland, with the portrait that inspired her novel

When someone local publishes a book, it’s always something of an event. But when a friend and near neighbour is the author, it’s especially exciting – as Peter Denton recounts.

A picture, goes the old adage, is worth a thousand words. But in the case of Teddington author Molly Gartland’s debut novel, The Girl From the Hermitage, published today (September 14th), it’s true to say that a picture actually led not to a thousand but 70,000 words.

That’s because when Molly and her husband Steve visited an art gallery in Moscow, they came across ‘Bird Girl’, a portrait by Ludmila Mikhailovna Sgibneva, and liked it so much that they bought it. That was in the mid-1990s, when the newly-married couple were living and working in Russia. Then, fast forward to 2014, when out of curiosity Molly searched for the artist on the internet – and up came ‘Bird Girl’.

“I started reading Ludmila’s biography” recalled Molly. “She’s now in her eighties and I discovered that she had lived through the Siege of Leningrad, one of the most dreadful events in Russia’s modern history.”

Coincidentally, Molly had long been interested in authorship, and reading Ludmila’s account of those harrowing times prompted her to take a course in creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College and, later, at St Mary’s University, where she earned an MA.

“Were it not for those wonderful local education resources, my writing abilities may never have been primed” she said. “We’re hugely fortunate to have these facilities here on our doorstep.”

But primed they were – and one consequence of Molly’s MA was that she felt equipped and confident to embark on a serious writing project. The result is her fictional account of the portrait (which, incidentally, hangs on her living room wall).

“I wouldn’t have been able to write the book had I not had the experience of living in Russia in the ‘90s” she said. “In those days, the country was crazy and lawless because it had moved from a very orderly regime to utter madness. But now, day to day living is substantially better than it was, but in the West we’re not really aware of that. One of the aims of my book is to offer the reader a different view of that enormous and fascinating country, with all its faults.”

Patriotism and pride are important to Russians, “just as they are to Americans”, Molly says. And she should know – she was born and grew up in the United States. She studied financial management and elective Russian at Michigan State University, and first visited Russia as a student in 1993. Today she’s a British citizen and lives in a quiet part of Teddington with husband Steve and their two teenage children.

The Girl From the Hermitage was published as an e-book earlier this year, and is now available in paperback. Shortlisted for the Impress Prize, and longlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the Grindstone Novel Award, it’s already attracting favourable reviews: “An ambitious family saga… an extraordinarily well-written book for a debut” says the Historical Novel Society. And the Yorkshire Times describes the book as “elegantly written and convincing… an enthralling read”.

So with her first novel safely in bookshops and on her CV, what’s next for Molly? “Oh, a prequel” she says. “The Russian Revolution and into the 1930s. I’m working on it!”

The Girl From the Hermitage by Molly Gartland is published by Lightning Books, £8.99. Molly will be appearing at the Richmond Literary Festival on November 11th and 17th. You can find details here

Visit Molly Gartland’s website here

Join us/renew

Teddington Society logo

Why join?

The more members we have, the stronger our voice and the more influence we can exert. We campaign on issues which would adversely affect the town and support initiatives that will be of benefit. Make your opinion known through us. There’s strength in numbers so the more members the merrier.

Contact us by email

General information

Teddington Society Committee

Or write to us at

1 Avenue Road
TW11 0BT