Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 592
Genre: Historical fiction
Release: November 2007
Source: Bought
Nice to know: This is Kate Furnivall's debutnovel. The story is inspired by the experiences of Furnivall's own mother. The sequel is called The Concubine's Secret /The Girl from Junchow, and there is also a prequel called the Jewel of St Petersburg.

Exiled from Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution, the beautiful and fiery Lydia and her aristocratic mother have taken refuge in Junchow, China, in 1928. On the edge of destitution, Lydia uses her wits to survive and resorts to stealing. She is saved from certain death by a young Chinese Communist, Chang An Lo, and together they are thrust into clashes with savage triads. Lydia and Chang fall in love and are swept up in a fight against prejudice and shame. Forced to face opium-running, betrayal and kidnap, their compelling attraction to each other is tested to the limits in this story of love and loss, secrets and lies.

A great historical read
The Russian Concubine is a pageturner and an entertaining read about what one would do to survive, but mostly the book is about is about love.

During the Russian revolution in 1917 a lot of the wealthty russians were arrested and killed. Valentina, who are married to a dane called Jens Friis, is a very beautiful woman and to save their daughter and herself she used her looks. But she cannot save her husband. Many years later, in 1928, the story is set in Junchow in China. Here we find people from all parts of the world, Great Britain, France, Italy and last but not least Russia.

Lydia and her mother Valentina are having a hard time making ends meet. Valentina drinks and Lydia are picking pockets in order to put food on the table. One day Lydia steals a very valuable piece of jewelry, and this changes her life and the lives of the people close to her.

I love historical fiction, but I have read very few novels based on russian and chinese history. This novel starts with a dramatic scene, which plunges the reader right into the story. From there on the book is hard to put down. There is a lot of things happening, and the story takes some unexpected turns.

Lydia is a typical herione. She is beautiful, strongwilled and stands up for herself. She is a bit of a tomboy, and she is prepared to fight for the people she love. She loves intensely and passionately, but her actions sometimes puts her in dangerous situations.

The book has a lot of surprises, especially at the end. On the negative side I did not like that we are offered the perspective of a lot of characters. I was mostly intererested in reading about Lydia, not the other characters. I also did not find that the title of the book corresponded well with the story.

But the Russian Concubine is a great historical read which will entertain you and also learn you a bit of history on the way.

Other reviews:
The Jerseymooners
Betsy's Book Club
Fire & Air
Book Reviews for Book Lovers

Kate Furnivalls website can be found here!


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