The Golden Apple of Samarkand
Lala plays with her diamond ring, mesmerized as always by the distant world it conjures for her and the jewel's extraordinary trajectory from Tsarist Russia to twenty-first-century England. An unexpected invitation has arrived and, at last, she will be able to visit Lentvaris, her paternal grandmother's ancestral home, a splendid East European estate where princely art collections, spectacular jewellery, extravagant balls and performing dwarves, coexisted with philanthropy on a grand scale and a deep sense of noblesse oblige. The First World War irrevocably altered the family's privileged lives, Lala's great-uncle was forced to flee with the last of the Romanov dynasty and her great-grandfather auctioned off his art treasures. The Second World War lost Lentvaris for ever. Lala's grandfather died in a Soviet gulag. Her grandmother, aunt and father survived harsh imprisonment and afterwards crossed continents eventually finding precarious stability living as émigrés in South America. This is an epic story of dramatic escapes, concealed treasures, a lost paradise, but especially of the courage, strength and resilience shown by the female side of Lala's family, and of the power of love, humour and hope.