“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…” ~ From the jacket copy of The Russian Concubine
I love novels that transport me to a new time and place I know almost nothing about. The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall is one such book. Lydia Ivanova fled Russia with her mother, Valentina, during the Bolshevik Revolution and they now live in the International Settlement in Junchow, China. Without passports or prospects, Lydia and her mother struggle to survive. Set against the backdrop of a community on the cusp of its own revolution, in a city where cultures are colliding, Lydia meets and falls in love with Chang An Lo, a young Communist. They face dangers and from the Black Snake Triad, Chiang Kai-shek’s army, and the British government, as well as the censure of their peers. Can their love survive?
For me, this novel takes place in a unique moment in history and was not one I had read before. Ms. Furnivall does an amazing job sucking you into the setting of her story. She brings to life the sights, sounds, and smells seamlessly within the story. Because her mother lived as a White Russian refugee in China, I’m sure she had a personal connection to the story which lends a life and brilliancy to the tale. There is also a really good balance of adventure and romance. This book definitely earned a place on my bookshelf (along with the sequel A Girl From Junchow).
So in between Olympic events, give this book a read and let me know what you think!