A friend sent me this book, The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall, because it kind of reminded her of our trip to Russia. She did mention that it was not "serious" literature, but a good, easy read. Since I had just finished reading a book, I thought, why not?
In this book, a family of Russians flee the Bolshevik revolution. They travel to China, but along the way, they are stopped by Bolsheviks and the husband is killed. The mom, Valentina and her daughter, Lydia, make it to China, but have no money, no passport and no way to provide for themselves. Lydia, a beautiful, willful red-head, becomes a thief to help support them, and during one of her "bussiness trips" into the Chinese portion of the town (as opposed to the part practically owned by the British) she almost gets kidnapped and sold into prostitution, only to be saved by a Chinese communist, Chang An Lo. Eventually, they fall in love and as you can imagine, chaos rules.
I love the character of Lydia. She is beautifully and lovingly drawn. She has fire and depth. She alone makes this novel worth reading. The other characters are also done rather well, but I felt like the author had a checklist:
Corrupt British bureaucrat who beats and cheats on his wife. Check.
Well-meaning British school teacher who has a Chinese lover, has gone native and eventually succumbs to the drug, opium, that destroyed his family. Check.
Russian mom who has to whore herself out, albeit in a upper-class fashion, to survive and marries the first rich, nice British guy who asks. Check.
Powerful Chinese warlord who controlls the opium trade and is very rich, ruthless and violent. Check.
You get the picture. In addition, the last half of the book could easily be a script for a soap opera, and that's not a compliment. Yes, I know this is a novel, meaning, it is not real, but please, this crossed the border from incredulous to how stupid do you think I am. The author might of well have put a cape on Lydia and Chang An Lo and declared them superheroes, for all they went through.
Overall, I would not recommend this book. While the characters are written beautifully, the story itself defies logic. The best thing about this book: it gave me a great idea for a research project. What did happen to the Russians who had to flee to China? But other than that, this book was not worth the time.
When is blogger going to fix spell-check?