The Girl from Junchow

Written by Kate Furnivall
Review by Audrey Braver

Lydia Ivanovna is The Girl From Junchow. When Lydia was five, she and her Russian mother went to China to escape the Bolsheviks, leaving behind Lydia’s father, Jens Friis, a Danish engineer, whom she and her mother believed had been killed by the Bolsheviks. In 1929, after her mother’s death, Lydia learns that her father is alive and a prisoner in Siberia. She longs to see her father again. She leaves China with her half-brother, Alexei, and her self-appointed protector, a Cossack named Popkov. Their journey to Russia brings many dangers, friends, false friends, and betrayals. In Moscow, where Jens Friis has been transferred to a secret prison, Lydia renews her love affair with Chang An Lo, her Chinese Communist lover from Junchow. Not only is Chang in Moscow as a delegate from Mao Tse-Tung, but he has knowledge of Jens Friis’s whereabouts. He helps Lydia and Alexei in their efforts to rescue their father. Chang also has knowledge concerning the truth about Lydia’s brother, Alexei.

In this immediate sequel to The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall has created a remarkable heroine in 17-year-old Lydia, who is young and vulnerable yet headstrong and fearless. This is a believable depiction of survival in Stalin’s Communist Russia. Ms Furnivall’s descriptions are powerful, bringing the reader completely into the setting. She has developed characters that are well balanced and believable. The plotting and pace are breathless.