Set in the early stages of revolution in St. Petersburg Russia during a period of great civil unrest. The working class are getting poorer and more desperate each day as they fight starvation, disease and injuries at unsafe factories while the upper class continue to live their extravagant lifestyles. Revolutionaries decide to take things into their own hands and begin to start killing government officials and members of the upper class. This is the story of Valentina Ivanova, daughter of the Minister of Finance to Tsar Nicholas II, Minister General Nicholas Ivanov. In the summer of 1910, Valentina faces death when she is attacked in the forest on her father’s land by Bolsheviks. Valentina manages to evade her attackers and makes it home just in time to see her house destroyed by a bomb. Valentina’s younger sister Katya is seriously injured in the attack and becomes paralyzed as a result. Even though Valentina is born into the upper class, all she wants to do is become a nurse, a station way below her status, in order to take care of her sister Katya. She has no desire to live the life her parents have planned – to marry her off to a Captain in Tsar’s army for his money and for her to live the life of an upper class wife, a life of tea parties and fancy dresses. Instead Valentina falls in love with the dashing Danish “Viking” engineer Jens Friis, builder of tunnels for sewage and water drains. Valentina is determined to live her life the way that she wants to without disappointing her parents or her heart.
This was the first book I have read by Kate Furnivall and I have just picked up “The Russian Concubine” and “The Girl from Junchow” and they are waiting restlessly on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I thought that it was extremely well written. I have loved Russian history and culture for years and I think that Furnivall did an excellent job in creating the backdrop of St. Petersburg in the early 1900s. Furnivall creates exquisite characters from Valentina, the intelligent, strong-willed upper class girl with the desire to become a nurse; Arkin, the revolutionary with a heart and a soft spot for one upper class family; Jens, the endearing engineer who wants to help the working class even though they consider him the enemy. Furnivall manages to create a vivid, fast-paced story that keeps the reader engaged from the very first page to the very last sentence.