Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit meets Goodbye Lenin.
'I hadn't expected the Berlin Wall to be clean and white and smooth. It looked more like the edge of the swimming baths than the edge of the Cold War. On the grass of No-man's Land, fat rabbits ate and strolled about as if they'd never been hunted and nothing could disturb them. This was their land and they ruled it, and there were three parts to Berlin: East, West and Rabbit.'
It is 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, and how sides can be switched for you, sometimes without you even knowing.
Motherland 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.
Jo McMillan grew up in the UK and has lived and worked in China and Malaysia. She is currently based in Berlin. Motherland is her first novel.
Funny, smart, and packed full of all the melancholy you would expect from a novel that slowly sheds a child's innocence — Red
There's a great deal of humour in Motherland, all underpinned with a sober tone . . . Jess makes an engaging narrator — alifeinbooks
In its warm and witty portrait of offbeat mother-daughter relations, Motherland often recalls Nina Stibbe's Man At The Helm. Jess's gift for wry observations also gives rise to some wonderfully quotable lines — Lady
Motherland cuts a swathe through history without feeling like a lesson . . . Even though Motherland is full of historical detail, between 1980s Tamworth and the GDR, the oppression of the era never overwhelms. At the heart, and most important are the human relationships and which bonds survive — Emerald Street
I'm sure that these are characters (and the voice of a new novelist) that I for one will gladly revisit over and over again . . . A beautiful story tinged with fun, sadness and insight — Bookbag
A delightful tragi-comic novel, primarily about a mother/daughter relationship (hence the title) and also about coming of age and disillusionment . . . Motherland combines a teenager's cold-eyed view of adult absurdities and a wistfulness for lost certainties; a compelling blend — Historical Novel Review
A funny and poignant first novel — Daily Mail
This assured debut from Jo McMillan was a delight from start to finish; I was immediately drawn into the lives of the main characters and was sorry to get to the end. McMillan is now based in Berlin and she writes convincingly of both sides of the Cold War, she has a very distinct voice and will be a writer to watch in the future — We Love This Book
McMillan's writing is excellent; she captures brilliantly the voice of Jess, naive and committed at the start of the book, knowing and more questioning by the end. Although there's perhaps a certain irony in places in her portrayal of the various members of the counter-culture groups, she never belittles their belief and their faith in their cause . . . Motherland is McMillan's debut, and it's an excellent one - highly recommended! — Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings
For those of us who remember how well youthful politics can entangle teenage love, this funny, sweet, sad first novel is both a delight and a glorious journey back to a time and place many of us only recall with a wry shake of the head — Stella Duffy
An ambitious coming-of-age novel from debut author Jo McMillan, which is wonderfully written and filled with quirky details and descriptions . . . A touching and poignant read, which uniquely explores this period in time in a way in which few other authors have attempted to — Herald
Genuinely funny — Socialist Worker
A touching and poignant read, which uniquely explores this period in time in a way in which few other authors have attempted to — Press Association
An ambitious coming-of-age story, filled with quirky details and descriptions — Scotsman
It's an ambitious coming-of-age novel from debut author Jo McMillan, which is wonderfully written and filled with quirky details and descriptions . . . a touching and poignant read, which uniquely explores this period in time in a way in which few other authors have attempted to — Catholic Universe
The book (sometimes very funny, sometimes desperately embarrassing and sad, always absorbing and moving) is full of her ineradicable love for her batty, determined Stalinist mother . . . I urge you to [read it] — Mail Online