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The Russian Concubine

(The Russian Concubine #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  9,031 ratings  ·  946 reviews
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 m
Paperback, 517 pages
Published June 27th 2007 by Berkley Books (first published May 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,031 ratings  ·  946 reviews

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Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
First of all I give this book two big thumbs up. I LOVED IT. I would rate it a harsh pg-13. Very little language, but a couple of steamy love making, and a couple of nasty violent scenes (all of which had to be there to make the book so great).

I'm going to start with a quote straight from the book. This summs up the books meaning.

" she knew tht you didn't survive on your own. Everyone who touched your life sent a ripple effect through you, and all the ripples interconnected. She could sens
Jun 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
The Russian Concubine started out like Cool Whip: light & fluffy. But I thought to myself, "Sometimes Cool Whip is good!" Unfortunately, midway through, I began to feel as if I'd eaten an entire tub of that crap. Then came page 331, and I knew I couldn't read another line and still respect myself in the morning:
"...Enjoy this breath, Po Chu, because it will be your last if you call my beloved a whore again..."
"She begged. Ah, Tiyo Willbee, how she begged..."
"Begged? For what?"
"For our honora
Mar 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
Blech. This sounded exactly like a book I would love. It's historical fiction, lots of drama, a hint of romance in the storyline, but I couldn't have cared less what happened to these people. The first chapter was harsh, but it kind of grabbed you. Then, it was all downhill from there. The mother, whom you thought was going to be this big champion for her daughter, all of a sudden is horrible and doesn't care a fig about anyone in chapter two. I understand the need to make characters complex and ...more
Lyd's Archive (7/'15 to 6/'18)
DNF at page 109

I'm three quarters Cantonese and though I can't do kung fu to save my life, but I can rip this book apart.

First of all, I dnf-ed this book because it was 517 pages and I was not into it. I have a good number of reasons why.

Basically, this book is Tsarina and Tiger's Curse, only without the crappy fantasy element of the former and a bit less of the latter's unintended potential racism. It starts with an intense but cheesy prologue where they introduce our MC as a supposedly "Strong
May 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I chose this book from the book store mainly because of the front cover. The picture is very beautiful, and the title is intriguing. Although, after reading through the book, I don't really understand why it's called The Russian Concubine. Yes, Lydia and Chang are lovers, but concubine just gives a different connotation. Chang wouldn't be able to afford a concubine.

The book has such a wonderful array of rich and overlapping characters. If you meet a character once, you can be sure to meet them a
The Russian Concubine starts in the time of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Lydia Ivanova’s parents, part of the educated and elite in Russia, are shipped out like cattle. At the end of their journey her father is shot in front of her.

Move forward to 1928 China, where the winds of communism are fanning the flames of revolution once again. Exiles in a foreign land, Lydia and her mother are barely surviving, no thanks to her otherwise beautiful mother’s drinking and fragility. Both know how to
Jordan Taylor
Set in 1928 Jungchow, China, this book follows Lydia, a Russian young woman who immigrated there as a child with her mother. Lydia spends her days going to a school that her mother cannot afford, pickpocketing on the Chinese streets, and struggling to get by in her poor community. Her life changes drastically when she meets Chang An Lo, a brave young Communist code-breaker. Lydia becomes caught up in Chang's idea of freedom and equality, and despite their differences in culture, feels increasing ...more
[possible spoiler/s ahead:]

A deftly woven tale of political intrigue, betrayal and lies in a turbulent historical point in China, but at its heart a touching love story between two people—born worlds apart—who ultimately find love and communion in each other.

The Russian Concubine is very well researched and the authenticity of the setting and characters portrayed by Furnivall is spot-on. I can see why people would hate this book, judging from some reviews on the site here, thinking it a melodra
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is actually Book two in a current trilogy that I am reading. Wow.... What I love about this story is that the author is not sugar coating anything. If blood is to be spilled, it is and big time. It opens your mind to the true Russian and Chinese history in the early part of the last century. The Bolshevik and Communist history. and in between it has the forbidden love stories first of the mother and then her daughter too. If you only read book 1 "The Jewel of St Petersberg" you will end up ...more
Dec 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
I REALLY tried to like this book. I forced myself to keep reading, thinking and hoping that I would get hooked by the characters at some point. But, I have officially given up. Considering this is a period romance set in China during the 1920s, you'd think this was right up my alley. I certainly did. However, I was never interested in the characters that much. (And as a high school teacher a love story about 16-year-olds is disturbing on many levels.) Also, I felt that some passages read like a ...more
Jess The Bookworm
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Firstly, the title of this book is completely misleading. One thinks that it should be a story about an actual concubine, to some royal or political figure. One thinks that it should be a bit of a saucy book.

It is none of these things.

It's a book about a Russian refugee in China, who falls in love with a Chinese boy, and makes bad decisions generally.

It was ok, but I wish that the book wasn't so misleading. I won't get the next book in the series, because I really don't care much for the charact
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
In 1917, a family caught in the midst of the Russian Revolution, is literally ripped apart when Russian revolutionary soldiers assault the train taking the exiles out of the country. Valentina Ivanova tries to barter for the lives of her husband and daughter. Lydia is saved, but her husband is beaten and dragged off with the rest of the men and children who have been forced from the train by the soldiers. The book was very loosely based on the life of the author’s mother.
At first glance, I reali
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the first book in the Russian Concubine series. I happened to read the third one first which was a prequel to this one (The Jewel of St. Petersburg). I liked "The Jewel" so much better than the "Russian Concubine." The characters you meet in the "Concubine" seem so flawed and almost not the same people I read about in "The Jewel." I loved and admired Valentina in "The Jewel", but did not like her at all in the "Concubine." The experience of fleeing for her life during the Bolshevik Revol ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
Not only are the plot and characters poorly constructed, this book is riddled with lazy racial stereotypes, and fetishistic/exotifying language.

The premise of the novel is intriguing, but the number of cliches, and age-old, unimaginative references to China ("dragon's breath", "lotus flower", etc) leap out in a very unappetizing manner. It is as if the author is insistent that the reader adopt a very stereotypical mental image of China; even the native Chinese folk who inhabit the country this n
Mar 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
"The train growled to a halt. Gray steam belched from its heaving engine into the white sky, and the twenty-four freight carriages behind bucked and rattled as they lurched shrieking to a standstill."

I should have stopped when I read the first two sentences over and over because I couldn't get past how ridiculous they were. Growled? Belched? Heaving? Bucked and rattled? Lurched shrieking? REALLY?! Because I'm pretty sure this is what we call overkill.

The entire book carried on this way. Everyth
Kristina V. Ramos
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 30, 2014 rated it liked it
The writing is mediocre. Ala 50 Shades of Grey style- adult concepts in young adultish writing.

There's no transition between scenes. No buffer. It just switches from one scene or dialogue to another. I found that annoying also. Maybe works well on TV but sounds confusing and abrupt on paper. Especially in this case where there are so many plots which brings me to my next point.

Too many things going on and there was no direction. Is this a political thriller? A love story? Chinese gangs, drug tr
I finished reading this last night, and it was interestingly far-fetched to say the least, and sometimes shockingly so. It felt like the story was just dragging for a while and then nearing the end, the author just sped things up and it finished quickly, with some events that were so bad I think I actually liked seeing where they went next. It could have been better, but it wasn't. And I didn't like how some things just felt untied and on the "left-hanging" side of things at the end. The writing ...more
This was an ambitious first novel by Kate Furnivall, turning her mother’s experiences as a White Russian refugee in China into an amazing, page-turner of a book.

The story revolves around Lydia Ivanova, a teenage girl living in Junchow, China in 1928. Her father has presumably been killed during the Russian revolution and her mother is struggling to make a living giving piano concerts.

China is a land in turmoil. Chiang Kai-shek and the Koumintang army are in a power struggle against the Communist
Elizabeth Ducie
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lydia Ivanova starts life in Russia, but in 1918, her family attempts to flee the Bolsheviks. Lydia and her mother, Valentina, end up in China where Lydia learns to survive on very little apart from her wits and a talent for thieving. Ten years later, she meets and falls in love with a young Chinese Communist, Chang An Lo. But there are many dangers in that turbulent country at that most turbulent of times.

This is a huge novel, running to over 500 pages, and the research that must have gone into
Very enjoyable tale, and although I may have skimmed a little bit, it was only cause it was a tad long winded in spots, but overall I really got lost in this story.

I believe I have done this the wrong way around and read The Jewel of St. Petersburg first which was apparently released after this one as a prequel but going by peoples reviews it's all probably worked out for the best as I knew all the background to the story and people in it :)
Meg - A Bookish Affair
I really enjoyed this book. This book is about a Russian emigre and her mother, a White Russian, who go to live in China after the Bolshevik Revolution. The book takes place in the beginning of the Communist movement in China. This book is filled with romance.
Nancy Hartill
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this book and now see there are a couple of sequels. Also a pre-quel. I need to get reading!!! Kate Furnival writes in such passion and heart, and the characters face brutal tough challenges in their lives. I noted that Diana Gabaldon, another favorite writer of mine, had positive thoughts about it. I like epic novels and world travel, and this one does not disappoint. It reminds me a lot of the struggles with the change of powers after Chaing Kai Shek in a book I read many years ago, call ...more
Smitha Murthy
For the longest time, this book sat on my bookshelf. I had been daunted by its size, and then disenchanted by what little I had read of its story. I couldn’t take it anymore, though. That woman on the cover kept staring at me through my bookshelf, haunting me when I slept, and just taunting me during the day.

And so, I succumbed to her charms. The charms faded quickly though. ‘The Russian Concubine’ started interestingly enough but then faded away when the intrigue became too muddled for me and
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An epic tale! Intense, gripping, dramatic, and passionate. Full of danger, fear, secrets and loss. Where Lydia must do whatever she can to survive. Set against a rich, exotic and vibrant backdrop of 1920's China. Well worth the read.
Keith Miller
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
good romp, but stuggled to get too emotionally involved wit the characters
I have mixed thoughts on this novel. It took me a good four months of stopping and starting to finish it. I also made the mistake of reading the prequel first as I didn't realize it was a series. I would highly recommend reading the books in the order they were written in.

It's also very difficult to write a review without giving away important points in the story. And I want to write great things about it because I loved The Jewel of St Petersburg so much. Unfortunately I cannot say the same fo
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, russia, series
I really enjoyed this book. It is the story of Lydia Ivanova and her mother who are White Russian refugees in China. She doesn’t quite fit into this strange world which was created by the Western world in the middle of revolutionary China. They live in an international settlement in Junchow where the British run the settlement. Lydia attends the British private school, where she is somewhat an outcast. She has a desire to know and understand the Chinese people and their culture. She frequently l ...more
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Kate Furnivall was raised in Penarth, a small seaside town in Wales. Her mother, whose own childhood was spent in Russia, China and India, discovered at an early age that the world around us is so volatile, that the only things of true value are those inside your head and your heart. These values Kate explores in The Russian Concubine.

Kate went to London University where she studied English and fr

Other books in the series

The Russian Concubine (3 books)
  • The Jewel of St. Petersburg (The Russian Concubine, #0)
  • The Girl from Junchow (The Russian Concubine, #2)

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“The sight of you brings joy to my heart and makes my blood thunder in my veins. I know not how long I will be allowed to stand here. So there are words I must say. That you are the moon and the stars to me, and the air I breathe. To love you is to live. So if I die.... I will still live in you.” 8 likes
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