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The Wild Orchid by Kate Furnivall
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The Wild Orchid (2006)

by Kate Furnivall

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7743511,926 (3.46)29

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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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 |
Well, this book was like a long, long trip. With nothing happening during most of it. Though I have to say, I honestly don't think I was expecting much of it.

The book is very, very slow-paced which, for a historical fiction, shouldn't really be so surprising. But what really displeased me about it is the narrative itself. I thought that the historical content was introduced into the story in a very forceful way, to the point that the characters mixed their little love dialogue with thoughts about politics and the Communism.

I can't really say I cared about the characters. At all. Maybe among them Valentina was the most intriguing character, but very little was told about her (and for a book with over 500 pages, you can't really say there wasn't enough space to shove in a bit more of her story). Later I found that there is a prequel to this book that actually tells Valentina's story, but I don't think I care enough about her to actually want to read the book.

The book didn't really catch my attention until I got to the 300th page, which is... well, bad. If a book needs 300 pages to sell its story, then the pacing of the plot is badly distributed. Not to mention the fact that a couple of things were left unexplained by the end of the book.

The only real reward for going through this book was actually when I finished reading the last page (and, by the way, the book ends in a sort of a cliffhanger - and if you actually like the book as it is, I would not recommend reading the summary for the book The Girl From Junchow, for it contains spoilers), closed the book and considered the reading "complete". ( )
  aryadeschain | Jul 24, 2015 |
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In memory of my mother, Lily Furnivall, whose story inspired my own. With love.
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The train growled to a halt.
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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

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