Mother Tongue




Darya is a young woman trying to recover her life after a brutal terrorist attack shakes her rural Russian hometown, killing her young sister. Her father wants her married off to one of his factory employees and her mother has resurfaced as the matriarch of their family, displacing Darya and even blaming her for Nika’s death. But the attack has drawn foreigners to their community, reporters and aid workers who open Darya’s eyes to the world. When she falls for a older man, a journalist from New York, could he be her ticket out of her hometown, her old life and her grief?

A stunning story about finding your voice in the aftermath of tragedy, from acclaimed author Julie Mayhew.




Oh what a tragic story this is as it follows the life of Darya Pavlovna. Set in Russia Darya lives in Beslan, a young girl that has had to take on the tremendous responsibility of bringing up your little sister from the day she was born, yet Darya herself still yearns to be mothered. Conflicting and mixed up emotions run through her as she is forced into adulthood before her time.

When horrific events hit Beslan in 2004 Darya is left with a tremendous feeling of guilt and cannot seem to find any purpose in her life to stay in Beslan. The terrible hardships told in a town broken. The description of the weeks that followed were heart wrenching, the hope, the denial and the acceptance. Scenes that will stay with me now through Julie Mayhew’s superb visual and heart breaking words. You just have to carry on reading though this is so compelling.

This novel makes you feel like you are stood at Darya’s shoulder watching as events unfold, witnessing through her eyes and you just want to say this isn’t your fault.

Darya travels to Moscow to find a new life, a new meaning but to say her life is troubled would be a gross understatement, as although forced through circumstances to be an adult in Beslan before her time, she is far from worldly wise for Moscow. Sometimes tragedy just seems to follow some people and they just don’t seem to get a break or fit in no matter what they do.

This is a truly fascinating book that I simply could not put down. Keep reading when it ends or read first the list of Russian terms that you will find really useful and an explanation of how the children are named which is very interesting. A superb book that includes the real life event of Beslan. Excellent!

I wish to thank Netgalley and Bonnier Publishing Hot Key Books for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.



Julie Mayhew

Julie Mayhew originally trained as a journalist, then as an actress, and she started writing because she hardly ever saw a script with a brilliant role for a girl or a woman. She is the author of RED INK (shortlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase Award) and the critically acclaimed THE BIG LIE. She is also prolific writer for radio, and has twice been nominated for Best Original Drama at the BBC Audio Drama Awards for her plays A SHOEBOX OF SNOW and THE ELECTRICAL VENUS. Julie is a recent recipient of an Arts Council England Award and a K Blundell Trust Award to research and develop stories in Berlin and in her hometown Peterborough, and she is currently under commission to write a free and modern adaptation of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN for Eastern Angles Theatre. She lives in Hertfordshire with her family, where she is host of short story cabaret The Berko Speakeasy. Website:, Twitter: @juliemayhew, Instagram: JulieMayhew


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