Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review: The Girl From Junchow by Kate Furnivall

From the back cover:China, 1929. For years Lydia Ivanova believed her father was killed by the Bolsheviks. But when she learns he is imprisoned in Stalin-controlled Russia, the fiery girl is willing to leave everything behind-even her Chinese lover, Chang An Lo.

With her half brother, Alexei, Lydia sets out on a dangerous journey. Tension grows between the two as Alexei's search for his past threatens Lydia's quest to find her father and forge a new future for herself. But when Alexei abruptly disappears, Lydia is left alone, penniless in soviet Russia. As she continues her search for information, Lydia finds herself caught up in a perilous entanglement with a Russian officer.

But Chang An Lo has not forgotten Lydia. He knows things about her father that she does not. And while he races to protect her, she is prepared to risk treacherous consequences to discover the truth.

Once again Furnivall managed to captivate me with her story of Lydia Ivanova. This story picks up where The Russian Concubine left off as Lydia, her half brother Alexei and Lydia's Cossack friend Popkov board the train from Junchow to Russia in search of her father, Jens. Lydia has not seen her father since she was five years old but what memories she has of him are loving ones. To think that he is still in a labor camp in Siberia is heartbreaking to her.

Being a stubborn willed seventeen year old, Lydia sometimes acts before she thinks. Fortunately for her she has the intrepid Popkov, a great bear of a man, to watch out for her. It's a good thing too as he manages to get Lydia out of some very dangerously sticky situations. Although Alexei secretly thinks their father could not possibly have survived the brutal labor camps, he travels with Lydia in the off chance Jens is still alive and that they could possibly rescue him. Alexei manages to get into his own sticky situation, namely getting involved in the Russian mafia through no wish of his own.

Meanwhile back in China, Chang An Lo, Lydia's Chinese lover, has become more embroiled in the Communist Party moving up through the ranks. Chang manages to get a committee sent to Russia to view the new factories being built by the reigning Stalinist regime. Chang is a member of the committee and against all odds, he hooks up with Lydia no matter what the danger and tries to help her rescue her father.

At one point in the story while searching for Jens, Chang An Lo and Lydia have been separated under extremely horrifying circumstances. Chang agonizes over not being able to find her again. Furnivall shows us his emotion in the following gorgeous and passionate writing.

"Chang would not give up. He'd find her. Or die. There was no middle path. He called her name without ceasing,but the flames swallowed his words. The smoke suffocated life. He could feel it dying in his own lungs, and his fear for Lydia tore his heart into pieces.

He called out. He roared her name into the fire and the flames roared back at him, their laughter in every crackle and explosion that they spat in his face. He could see nothing beyond the inferno towering around him whichever direction he turned, and quite suddenly he realized he was looking with the wrong sense. Eyes could lie and confuse and panic. So he closed them. He stood totally still and exhaled the poisons from his lungs.

He listened for her again. But this time he listened with his heart."

Want another sample? To see a brief synopsis of The Russian Concubine and my Tuesday Teaser from the book, see this post. I just love Furnivall's writing. She manages to get me invested in the characters' lives so completely that it is almost hard to believe it is all fiction and to come back to the real world. Combined with beautiful writing, the addition of interesting, multi-faceted characters, heart stopping moments, and an historical overview of Russia during early 1930 made this book very difficult to put down. The ending leads me to believe there will be a sequel. If so, I will be eagerly anticipating it. 5*****

Disclosure: A copy of the book was borrowed from the county library system. Thanks to my tax dollars!


  1. I had better get a move on and read The Russian Concubine, in order to get my little hands on this one.

  2. I haven't read either one--they both sound good!

  3. I've added these books to my to-read list. This is my kind of historical fiction. Thanks for the review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  4. This sounds like a wonderful series. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  5. These sound very good... guess I'd better start looking for The Russian Concubine!

  6. 5 stars??? Wowser!! After reading your teaser the other day I ran upstairs to locate this, it wasn't the one I picked up at the library sale. That one was about a glass blower or something. So I'm bummed but I will be putting this one on my Blame Kaye list!!

  7. Loving the sound of this book. You made it come alive in your wonderful review. Got to go find this one.

  8. I have The Russian Concubine on my reader I think because you told me it was really good. I guess I'll be getting this one too. lol. Great review. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.