The Russian Concubine
  • The Russian Concubine
  • The Russian Concubine

The Russian Concubine

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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

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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.)

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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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425215586
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/27/2007
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
375,000
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.07(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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