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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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8363815,682 (3.47)30
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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
I'm not in a mad rush to pick up the sequel, but this book was good and I plan to read more from this author. ( )
  SMBrick | Feb 25, 2018 |
A strong novel about 1920's Junchow, in Northern China, the foreigners who live in the the International Settlement, a conglomeration of Russian, British, Italian, American and French citizens. They are surrounded by starving, diseased, poor Chinese who detest the comfortable Fanqui, foreign devils, who have taken so much from them, poisoned them with opium and treat them like trash.

Valentina and Lydia, Russian mother and daughter, are smart, resourceful, poor and lucky to be alive. Valentina is both beautiful and an amazingly gifted piano player, while Lydia is a good student in Theo Willoughby's school. It is Lydia who steals to make sure they can pay rent and eat. She nearly gets killed running down an alley but is saved by Chang An Lo. They have nothing in common except the ability to speak English, but develop a bond that strengthens with time.

The novel describes the poverty, the abuse of women, the corruption, the politics between Chiang Kai Shek supporters and those like Chang An Lo who believe communism is the only way China can modernize and move forward, the murders in detail.

A vibrant, dramatic novel and a very good read.
  Bookish59 | Feb 19, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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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 3 descriptions

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