21 August 2012

The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall, Book review

Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN-13: 978-0425234235


Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy-until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count.

Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the Tsar and the Duma at each other's throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of Tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever...

My thoughts:

Something compels me to reach out for anything which describes Russian life, before, during and after the revolution of 1905 and 1917.
In this regard Kate Furnivall's novels satisfies longings for learning more about this dark and troubled time. She skillfully describes this era by weaving a story that will appeal to any romantic with the harsh reality which encompassed decades ruled first by Tsarist power than by the Bolshevik revolution. 

As I referred to the synopsis I could not but reflect it does not describes the whole of 'The Jewel of St Petersburg' unless it is to allude to the superficial. The cover chosen by the publisher was scarcely more enticing.

Far more interesting is the Tsarist Russia revealed behind the love affair for history buffs. 
From the incredible wealth displayed by a mere one thousand ruling families and their lives seemingly never ending pleasures to the poverty stricken millions who served them, theirs a thirst for justice a tangible goal!
To the splendors of the Imperial court, the colourful gowns and exotic jewelry, the distinct rivalry betwixt the ministers offices, the unquenchable thirst for warring of the Imperial officers and the ever treacherous reach of the Ohkrana...to the riots in factories and mutiny aboard ships and of course Grigori Rasputin's mystic power...This book has it all!

Amongst all this, Valentina Ivanova is an extraordinary young woman only in so far she reflects the identity of other such young women of the era, women who learned to survive the horrors and trials of the period, be they rich or poor. 
Her wish to become a nurse at a time when no well bred young woman worked is an interesting factor in this story.

The love affair hinted at makes this novel the more attractive as we all want to believe in faery tales and there is no doubt Kate Furnivall excels at these rich narratives. 
A fascinating storyteller who knows how to put pen to paper, she draws her readers in her novels with unmistakable flair and good research.

You might find some of her descriptive too realistic if you are of a delicate nature but there is warmth and hope to be discovered always in these heartbreaking tales.
Survival is everything and time and time again, this author brings you to a threshold of hope: In 'The Jewel of St Petersburg' Valentina and her family will endure anything to stay together.

With her careful attention to details and vivid characters, Kate Furnivall allows her readers to feel and experience these uncertain times.
In this insistence we discover a not so well known area of St Petersburg's city: the underground tunnels for water and sewage. It might not seem so fascinating to some readers but history tells us the lack of development of this system was a direct contribution to the state of the area slums, the regular typhus epidemics, food and fuel shortage etc... 
This particular subject (Internet libraries are a wonderful source! ) peaked my interest from the first.

And after all this, let me just say this author has a knack for throwing us a curve...Just as you think you are reaching the end of her tale, she introduces you yet to a new phase...'The Jewel of St Petersburg' does not end there:  it follows with an introduction to yet another story, this time of Valentina's daughter, Lydia...

Find out more in 'The Girl from Junchow'.

For all those of you interested in these fascinating stories, Kate Furnivall introduces favourite characters from one story to another. Somehow it all becomes part of a giant tapestry...
As a fan, I am looking forward to see where she will take readers next!

5 Stars!

Note to readers: Adult thematic contents suggests this to be more appropriate to mature readers!

For  more on Kate Furnivall visit her website (here) Don't miss her Historical notes!

And of course, a reminder: This review was not requested and reflects only my opinion!


  1. I liked The White Pearl so much and the descriptive style of writing. This should be good for me as well.

  2. Et voila vous avait donne envore un livre sur la Russie!! :O) Vous aimer bien la Russie!!! Ou just vous aimer les livre sur la Russie de XXeme siecle!!!
    Moi meme je trouve cette siecle tres interesent dans l`histoire de la Russie!! :O)
    Bonne semaine!!
    xxx Maria xxx


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