Book Review: The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

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.

What an excellent book! I loved the characters, the stories, the connections. This takes place pre-revolutionary China. I found reading about culture, about the politics and traditions of the time very interesting (however I’m sure there are inaccuracies of course). I found it especially amusing how the English and Russians referred to the Chinese as “barbarians,” and the Chinese referred to all foreigners as the same. And even more so, I could understand how each drew their opinions . It was sad, too, how everyone was after their own agenda and rarely truly cared about anyone or anything beyond their opinion or them self. It did make the main characters stand out more.

Lydia is 16 years old, and acts like a strong-headed 16 year old; making bad decisions and doing crazy things. There were many times when I was thinking, “what in the world are you doing?!??! Are you crazy?” She and Chang make a unique, but beautiful union. I like how they are drawn to each other despite their cultural and social differences.

My Gemstone Rating:


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