Okay, just finished reading this novel by Kate Furnivall, the author of the Russian Concubine and the Concubine’s secret.
To be honest, at first I thought I had read these books in the wrong order and had missed the start and I was a little unsure about reading this one as it is actually the prequel to the Russian Concubine. I’m not totally enamoured about reading about what came ‘before’ when I already know what’s about to come ‘after’. That being said I’m actually glad I read the books in this order as it makes certain passages have more impact because you know what will come later. It was also really interesting to visit the early years of Valentina and put some meat on the bones there because although I enjoyed her character in The Russian Concubine it was very slim on detail – similarly with Liev Popkov.
The book starts in the late 1900s when a young Valentina Ivanova, daughter to the Finance Minister for Tsar Nichollas II, takes an early morning ride in the forests of her families grounds and stumbles across a band of men creeping through the undergrowth. Valentina is briefly captured by these men but on managing to escape finds her family home has been ripped apart by a bomb and her younger sister very badly injured.
Valentina has a very determined character throughout this book and was never the type to bat her eyelashes and simper behind a fan but the above sequence of events sets her on a new path in life. She decides to devote her life to looking after her sister Katya and in that respect lands upon the idea of becoming a nurse. As you can imagine, her family, as members of the artistocracy, are deeply against this scheme, but reluctantly come to a compromise in order to ‘convince their daughter into a loveless marriage.
Meanwhile Valentina has met Jens, a Danish engineer, and they start a passionate romance.
This whole story is epic in scope. We have this turbulent period of Russian history being dramatically brought to life on the pages of the book, coupled with the struggle of Valentina and Jens to see each other in spite of huge opposition. We have the struggles and strifes of the proletariat. And on top of that we have to deal with this character ‘Arkin’ who used to be the Ivanov’s chauffeur but was also playing a major part in the uprising.
I enjoyed this read very much in fact out of the whole series I enjoyed this probably the most. I like the characters Jens and Valentina, they were passionate and devoted. They were also sympathetic and understanding to the feelings of the poor people whose lives were so dire.
You couldn’t help but be sympathetic to the poor people of Russia. Their lives were dreadful. There living conditions absolutely appalling. They had no money and were surrounded by disease. Small wonder indeed that there was an uprising (not that I’m saying the methods involved were particularly palatable). Anyway, basically, I’m not a historian so, I have no idea whether this novel is true to events, however, it does paint a vivid picture.
Arkin was a strange character. Every now and again something almost ‘human’ came out of him – but, to be frank, it was so fleeting that it was still difficult to find anything redeemable about the man.
My favourite character of the book has got to be Liev – I would definitely read a prequel to his life story!
I’ve read all three of Kate Furnivall’s books now, I really enjoyed the Russian Concubine but thought the Concubine’s Secret was not as good and now to top it all the Jewel of St Petersburg. Definitely, I would say, the best one yet – even though it’s a sequel (so go figure!).
Also, if you enjoy this novel – please check out the Bronze Horseman (OMG what an epic romance!)
Anyway, one book at a time.