Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Wild Orchid by Kate Furnivall

The Wild Orchid (2006)

by Kate Furnivall

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7973611,505 (3.45)30



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 30 mentions

English (34)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I am so glad I have finally finished this book. I bought it on a whim, thinking that the look into pre-communist China would be fascinating and the love story would be interesting, but that's where I should have read through a few pages first.

The characters are deep and descriptions of them, as several reviewers say in their reviews, are well-drawn. Valentina especially is a tragic personage and along with Andrew one of the two believable main characters of this story.

Otherwise, the almost-fantasy relationship between Lydia, Valentina's daughter and the young Chang An Lo is just that: a fantasy. A crazy mixed-up ideal of a 16 year old redhead in the slums of China who wanders the street as a thief, and Chang An Lo, an idealistic young Communist who lives in the slums and sees the promises of equality as preached by Mao. He is able to rescue her using his supreme martial arts skills, becomes deeply attached to her and her fox-like nature, and she to him because he can speak fluent English and she, too, is idealistic.

I read a lot of fantasy literature; I'm reading Diana Gabaldon's books, and for all their fantastical time traveling and sudden turns of fate and plot line, they are still more believable than this book. I don't doubt that there were horrible people like the Black Snakes who tortured their enemies, I don't doubt that there were horrible slums and destitute people who were forced to live there, I don't doubt that the British looked down on the Chinese as mindless heathens. What I do doubt is the veracity of a young girl wandering such streets without earlier repercussions; if she had been a thief at such a young age, surely she would have been kidnapped or assaulted long before the events in this book. Ditto for the Hollywood-style martial arts skills and the visionary nature of Chang. The story does not fit into the reality in which it is written.

As far as the title character, my take is that it was Valentina. It is especially revealed at the end when she educates her daughter about what it took to get her into the English school and why her mother wants her to get an education so that she can be independent and not dependent on the whims and performance possibilities that Valentina must live with. A concubine was a man's kept mistress despite what she herself might have wanted, and Valentina certainly fits that definition. ( )
  threadnsong | Dec 30, 2016 |
What to say about this book that contains over 700 pages with so much information?
I liked it, that's for sure or I wouldn't have finished it. I liked Lidyja, but not so many of the other characters. Maybe that was the intention of the writer and did I fall into her 'trap', I don't know.

It was an intriguing book to read. A poor Russian woman and her daughter, trapped in the international 'city' within Junchow. Characters from her mother's past make life quite complicated, but also her adfiction to wodka and her desperate search for a man who can provide her and her daughter with all they need.

Lidyja is used to providing for the two of them and tries ro combine stealing and selling the stolen items to buy food and go to school. She's not happy at all with her mother's search for a new husband.

The story ends good. For all clarity: I hate forced happy endings where all ends are bent and twisted to fit in, no matter how illogical that is.
So, I'm not saying they all die, neither that they live happily ever after. I just like the end the way it is. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Sep 28, 2016 |
This was a fabulous story of love, loyalty and revenge, wrapped up in great historical detail of China in the 1920s. The book gripped me right from the start and I will definitely read the sequel (and the prequel). Lydia, the 15 year old daughter of a poor White Russian refugee is trying to keep herself and her mother alive by stealing whilst staying ahead of the law. Their fortunes change when her mother marries a wealthy British journalist. However, Lydia has fallen in love with a Chinese communist, which sets in motion a number of tragic events. Why this book is called The Russian Concubine I have no idea - it doesn't suit the story at all and is a bit misleading. A very enjoyable read overall. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Kate still impresses with her skills at world building, characterization, and relationship dynamics. I’ve only read one book by her so far, one of her newer works. This one seems to be the one she’s known most for so I’m glad I was able to experience it.

And “experience” is the correct term to use! The reader can literally smell the Chinese incense scents, see the vivid reds and golds of Chinese architecture and fabrics, and hear the calls of stall owners and shops of the markets. All of this is interposed over the rigid, orderly world of British society that ruled this area of China at the time. Then there’s Lydia, her mom, and the other Russian refugees caught in between, struggling to survive in a world caught between posh British who look down on them and poor Chinese who resent them. The author excels in making every bit of this world shine and breathe with life.

Furnivall is almost without peer when it comes to characterization. She does an incredible job balancing out virtues with vices. I can always count on her people being very human. There’s really only one exception to this in the book, and even then it’s not that blaring. In her previous work I’ve read, she gave one of her characters so many foibles that I ended up not liking them at all.

In this one, she’s made one of her characters almost too perfect. Chang is almost the perfect paragon: virtuous, courageous, principled, dedicated, and awesome at martial arts. He also gives his heart whole-heartedly when he falls in love. His love for Lydia does fall into the “obsessive” end of the spectrum at times so that saves him from being too perfect. Yet, Furnivall does such a great job with everything else that Chang doesn’t blare out that much, at least to me. I still enjoyed reading him.

I loved reading Furnivall’s examination of different relationship types as well. Friendships, lovers, husband/wife, father/daughter, teacher/student…. All are explored in depth within the story, really digging into how people relate to each other under different circumstances. She gives her readers an eye into how same relationship types differ as well, like how Lydia’s/Chang’s relationship differed from the teacher’s and Mei’s. How different circumstances can come to bear and steer and relationship into a different direction was fascinating.

Despite some aspects of Chang’s character making him read too perfect at times, I felt this was a very strong work by Furnivall. It definitely reads as the work that made her name. She makes her readers live the setting, feel for the characters, and just get sucked into the story. I’d recommend this one to any lovers of historical fiction or just a great story. Can’t wait to dig into more by this author! ( )
  Sarah_Gruwell | Jan 14, 2016 |
Overall, I enjoyed it. The author has a very sensual style of writing; tastes, sights, sounds, textures, smells ... it's all there in vivid detail making it very easy to lose yourself in the setting of the story - war-torn China during the early 1900's. The characters, while not as strong as the setting, were believable enough. I've read a lot of reviews where the people complained about the main character's lack of morals, but I found her true to the situation in which she was raised. The plot was sufficiently meaty right up until the end, then the whole thing sorta petered out and left me feeling cheated. Fortunately, there's a sequel - The Girl from Junchow. ( )
  kjpmcgee | Sep 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
In memory of my mother, Lily Furnivall, whose story inspired my own. With love.
First words
The train growled to a halt.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 042521558X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:48 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 1928, Lydia Ivanova and her mother struggle to make ends meet in China's whites-only International Settlement, where Lydia meets Chang An Lo, who endangers Lydia's life when his anti-communist activities draw the attention of the government, leaving him to trust Lydia to protect the priceless jewels he has stolen.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
97 avail.
22 wanted
1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.45)
0.5 2
1 6
1.5 4
2 25
2.5 4
3 47
3.5 11
4 54
4.5 7
5 34

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,150,140 books! | Top bar: Always visible