Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall (2007)

Isn't it great when you find a book that you just don't want to put down? Here's a review of the last one that I read that was fabulous:

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall (fine it here on

t's 1928, and Lydia Ivanova is coming of age in Junchow, a whites-only international settlement in China. Times are tough, and Lydia recalls little of her former life in Russia. Her family was wealthy there, among the Russian elite, until the Bolsheviks stole everything, including her father's life. Her mother, a former concert pianist, saved Lydia's life and escaped with her to Junchow. Now, they barely scrape by in a town torn by political unrest. Lydia now cares for her mother in a place full of thieves, a class system, and oppression. Still, nothing can stop Lydia from living life the way she wants to, especially after she meets and falls in love with Chang An Lo, a Chinese communist.

When reading The Russian Concubine, I was torn between wanting to read it slowly to savor every detail and wanting to finish it quickly to quell the suspense. Kate Furnivall paints vivid, lovely pictures with her story. She has a way of captivating human senses and emotions that make the reader truly experience the novel. The Russian Concubine is part coming-of-age story, part- Romeo and Juliet, and part Russian and Chinese history lesson. Through Lydia's determined eyes and untamed spirit, I could finally understand the motivations of the first Chinese communism movement and the struggles of foreigners in International Settlements. There are several sub-plots and secondary characters, but Furnivall weaves them together gracefully and leaves the reader wanting to learn more about all of the people in Junchow.

What becomes of the love between Lydia and Chang An Lo? Is Lydia able to live the life she dreams of and save her family from dreary, dangerous Junchow? Read the Russian Concubine to find out- you won't be disappointed!

PS- There's a sequel!


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