Author Name: Kate Furnivall
Publisher: Berkley Books
Part of a Series: Russian Saga; Jewel of St Petersburg before, The Girl from Junchow after
Type of book: Adult, China, Russia, Communism, 1917, 1928-1930?, Interracial relationship Asian Male/White Female
Year it was published: 2007
A sweeping epic and stunning debut, this novel brings to life the war-torn CHina of the 1920s. On opposite sides of a political and social divide, an exiled Russian girl and a Chinese Communist boy find love; a mother must face what she would rather forget; and an idealist realizes his greatest enemies might be his own kind... Junchow, China, 1928. Perhaps it's her red hair, or her hard life. Whatever the reason, Lydia Ivanova has a fierce spirit. Nothing can dim it, not even the foul waters of the Peiho River. Into the river's grime bodies are tossed, those of thieves and Communists alike. So every time she steals some marketplace treasure, the sixteen-year-old takes her life in her hands. Her mother, Valentina, numbered among the Russian elite until Bolsheviks rounded them up. They took her husband, but Valentina managed to buy back her child and bring her to China. Now, though mother and daughter live in the whites-only International Settlement, no walls can keep Lydia in. She escapes to meet Chang An Lo, a handsome youth with fire in his eyes. He returns her love, but other dangers threaten him. Chiang Kai-Shek's troops are headed toward Junchow to kill Reds like him-and in his possession are the priceless jewels of a dead tsarina, meant as a gift for the despot's wife. Their all-consuming love can only bring shame and peril upon the pair, from both sides. Those in power will do anything to quell it. But Lydia and Chang are powerless to end it...
The characters were well rounded. Lydia is often linked to either fire or fox by Chang An Lo. She is fierce, savage and a protector. Chang An Lo, although a protector, seems to lack Lydia's qualities. The secondary characters are also well rounded and interesting. I wish that a lot more history about Chang An Lo would be given in honesty. (I'd like to know his ethnicity and whatnot.)
Ultimately, there is more to life than survival. There has to be more such as love, affection, goals in life, etc.
Second time reading this book, I could really appreciate the scene that the author set, including emotions. This is written in third person omniscient. I did not become confused reading the book and the characters were very vivid. I liked how she tied up events together.
Author of 'The Russian Concubine' novel, about two White Russian refugees, a mother and daughter without money or papers in an International Settlement in China. (From Katefurnivall.blogspot.com)
This was my second time reading the book. The first time I read it, I was torn between whether to read it quickly and find out what happens next, or slow down and savor it. On second reading, I was able to do both. For me, this book is gripping with fascinating main and secondary characters, (from Lydia, Valentina, Chang An Lo, Alexei Serov, etc.) While this does have romance angle, (and one descriptive sexual scene,) the rest of the book is gritty and characters come face to face with various nemeses. They also show change throughout the novel. In honesty I have enjoyed the book and it's hard to find what I disliked. I've found out about this book on amazon around New Years and thought it would be fun to read. (It was.) Also, although it's titled 'The Russian Concubine,' it's used more as an attention grabber rather than about actual concubines. (I admit that the title did drew me in though hehe.)
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)