The Russian Concubine, by Kate Furnivall
Series: The Russian Concubine #1
Published by Sphere, 2007
Genres: Historical fiction, romance, China, Russia
Source: Purchased (second-hand)
Set in China in 1928, this book tells the story of Lydia, the young daughter of an exiled Russian aristocrat who fled the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Due to the circumstances of their departure, Lydia and her mother have very little to live on and survive by various unfortunate means. During one of her forays into the old Chinese part of town, Lydia encounters Chang An Lo, a young communist, who saves her life and, in so doing, binds them together in a future which will take many surprising twists and turns.
Lydia likes to believe that she is tough, independent and grown-up, but in reality, she is naïve and impetuous. The contrast between her feisty and headstrong nature, and Chang’s calm and considered approach to everything, is very interesting.
“Sir, whatever future I want, I’m the only one who can make it happen”
And this is very true. Lydia does not conform to any of the social decencies of the time, she does exactly as she pleases and is determined to carve her own destiny. Through her connection with Chang, she is thrown into the murky world of the Chinese triads (ruthless local gangs), the opium trade, violence, torture and much more. Throughout all of this, she remains the same feisty, opinionated and strong young woman and, by the end of the book, the reader has to ask themselves who really saves who.
I really loved this book! I am a huge fan of historical fiction, but I had not read anything about this particular time period in China. The Russian aspect was very interesting to me, as I have long had an interest in Russia and have even studied Russian, and I enjoyed all the little snippets of Russian which are included in the text. What makes this story even more captivating, is that it was based on the author’s own mother’s experiences as a Russian refugee in China.
After finishing this book, I discovered that there is a prequel, focusing on Lydia’s mother’s life in Russia before the Revolution, and a sequel, following Lydia after the end of this book. So these are definitely going on my TBR!
My rating: 5/5