The Russian Concubine
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The Russian Concubine

4.0 74
by Kate Furnivall
     
 

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A sweeping novel set in war-torn 1928 China, with a star-crossed love story at its center.

In a city full of thieves and Communists, danger and death, spirited young Lydia Ivanova has lived a hard life. Always looking over her shoulder, the sixteen-year-old must steal to feed herself and her mother, Valentina, who numbered among the Russian elite until

Overview

A sweeping novel set in war-torn 1928 China, with a star-crossed love story at its center.

In a city full of thieves and Communists, danger and death, spirited young Lydia Ivanova has lived a hard life. Always looking over her shoulder, the sixteen-year-old must steal to feed herself and her mother, Valentina, who numbered among the Russian elite until Bolsheviks murdered most of them, including her husband. As exiles, Lydia and Valentina have learned to survive in a foreign land.

Often, Lydia steals away to meet with the handsome young freedom fighter Chang An Lo. But they face danger: Chiang Kai Shek's troops are headed toward Junchow to kill Reds like Chang, who has in his possession the jewels of a tsarina, meant as a gift for the despot's wife. The young pair's all-consuming love can only bring shame and peril upon them, from both sides. Those in power will do anything to quell it. But Lydia and Chang are powerless to end it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The experiences of the author's mother inspired this debut novel, a somewhat improbable tale of star-crossed love in 1928 China. Valentina Ivanova and her 16-year-old daughter, Lydia, White Russian refugees, live in grinding poverty in the International Settlement of Junchow, subsisting off whatever presents Valentina can charm from gentlemen admirers and the profits Lydia makes from pawning stolen goods. When Lydia inadvertently attracts the unwelcome attentions of a criminal gang, the Black Snakes, she finds a rescuer in Chang An Lo, an English-speaking Communist and kung fu master. Danger is never far as the two fall in love. Lydia's travails are mirrored by those of Theo Willoughby, the British headmaster of her school. Theo's struggle to preserve his school and his happy life with his Chinese mistress, Li Mei, drives him to collude with Li Mei's estranged father-the leader of the Black Snakes-to run opium into Junchow. Violence is more prevalent (and graphic) than sex, and the narrative has extended periods of inertia during which there is much action, but not of the plot-advancing sort. Despite these flaws, Furnivall vividly evokes Lydia's character and personal struggles against a backdrop of depravity and corruption. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Set in prerevolutionary China between the world wars, Furnivall's debut offers up a love story as tumultuous as its setting. Lydia, a 16-year-old refugee from Russia, and her mother, Valentina, a former concert pianist, have taken up a life of impoverishment in the International Settlement in Junchow. Indulging in deception and petty thievery to survive, Lydia one day finds herself on the wrong side of the Black Snakes, an organized gang of Chinese criminals. Enter the young Communist Chang An Lo, who saves Lydia's life on impulse and thus sets off their disastrous love story. Surrounded by a cast of nefarious characters who entangle Lydia and Chang in a web of crimes as varied as drug trafficking, sexual perversion, and thieving, the young lovers find their romance meeting resistance and complication at every turn. While her characters are engaging and her pacing quick, Furnivall's zealousness gets in the way. Too many characters and unnecessary plot points cause this otherwise entertaining story to lose focus, diminishing its impact. Recommended only for larger historical fiction collections.
—Leigh Wright

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425215586
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/27/2007
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
274,866
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.07(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Kate Furnivall was born in Wales and currently lives in Devon, England. Married and the mother of two sons, she has working in publishing and television advertising. She drew inspiration for The Russian Concubine from her mother’s experiences as a White Russian refugee in China.

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Russian Concubine 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
StacieRosePittard More than 1 year ago
I rarely give five stars to a book. This one, however, had something special and unique that is often lacking in modern novels. First of all, the story was exciting, beautiful, and rich with well researched history. I was glued to every page, constantly needing to know what would happen next. At the same time, I was also enchanted by the love story which was unique and different from typical love stories you often find in novels, all weaved within a historical context that brought new knowledge to my attention (I learned a good deal of history that I didn't realize before). What truly makes this story stand out from others is the fact that the author did not fit her characters into the literary boxes that so many authors do. The protagonists were not perfect. They had human flaws and made human mistakes. They were not boring, because they were real. At the same time, the darker characters who would be considered "bad" had depth to them as well...they had a hard time completely fitting into the category of "villain", because they were still human. The fact that the author stepped out of the boundaries modern literature has formed helped to create an interesting story. As I read I didn't know what to expect or how this book was going to be resolved, because it was so unlike the typical over used story line. This is what earns a book five stars in my opinion, and I wish more authors took the creative risks this author did. If I had one complaint about the book, it would simply be that a couple of the more minor story lines were not resolved in the end. However, I feel as if that may have been intentional. This book was so real and life like, that I believe the author intended to leave some of the story lines open, just as we're never fully sure how life will resolve itself. Even so, she did this in a way that still gave readers a satisfying ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good read! Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Jo2 More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book so much, bought the sequel. I feel it is well written and learned quite a bit about the discord between China and Russia during this time period.
Jessie_V More than 1 year ago
The first book in the series, "Jewel of St. Petersburg", is a little slow in the middle but then gets really good and this book, despite its' name, are absolutely fantastic!
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Kathy Nguyen More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this to anyone who likes a historical romance with twists and turns fueled by a political backdrop
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Life_Reader More than 1 year ago
I have never heard of this author before. When I read the overview I wasn't so sure if i was going to like this. Never ever judge a book by its cover!! This is a heartwarming tear jerking kind of story. This story will always be with me. If you enjoy Historical fiction/love stories, this is the book for you. One of my best reads yet!!!
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