The Russian Concubine

Kate Furnivall, Author . Berkley $15 (517p) ISBN 978-0-425-21558-6

T he experiences of the author's mother inspired this debut novel, a somewhat improbable tale of star-crossed love in 1928 China. Valentina Ivanova and her 16-year-old daughter, Lydia, White Russian refugees, live in grinding poverty in the International Settlement of Junchow, subsisting off whatever presents Valentina can charm from gentlemen admirers and the profits Lydia makes from pawning stolen goods. When Lydia inadvertently attracts the unwelcome attentions of a criminal gang, the Black Snakes, she finds a rescuer in Chang An Lo, an English-speaking Communist and kung fu master. Danger is never far as the two fall in love. Lydia's travails are mirrored by those of Theo Willoughby, the British headmaster of her school. Theo's struggle to preserve his school and his happy life with his Chinese mistress, Li Mei, drives him to collude with Li Mei's estranged father—the leader of the Black Snakes—to run opium into Junchow. Violence is more prevalent (and graphic) than sex, and the narrative has extended periods of inertia during which there is much action, but not of the plot-advancing sort. Despite these flaws, Furnivall vividly evokes Lydia's character and personal struggles against a backdrop of depravity and corruption. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2007
Release date: 06/01/2007
Open Ebook - 528 pages - 978-1-101-20587-7
Open Ebook - 978-1-4295-4557-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-1-4295-4558-7
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