I probably shouldn’t even be writing this review, as I didn’t finish it. Well, I got through 350 pages before throwing in the towel, but only because I had nothing else to read with me at the time. I was intrigued by the premise, about a young Russian girl in China in the 1920s, and her relationship with a native Chinese. But from there, it quickly went downhill.
First of all, the prose is pretty overwrought, littered with one-word, repetitive sentences that were very choppy. There were lots of writing clichés (of the “he could feel into her soul” variety”). The writing actually gave me a headache at some places.
There were also problems with the plot and characters. I simply didn’t feel emotionally invested in any of these characters’ stories, particularly Lydia, who grated on my nerves (and if the author mentioned her flame-red hair one more time, I thought I was going to throw the book at the wall!). She didn’t ever seem to be her age, and I didn’t find her relationship with Chang to be all that believable. Nor did I really believe her mother’s character, which was more cliché than anything; and I though Theo Willoughby’s story was really random and out there, and not truly important to the plot—which I kept searching for, but in vain. Take these characters and put them in a different setting, and you would probably have the same novel, honestly.
A lot of things happen in this novel, but it seems to be more inertia than anything—a lot of it doesn’t seem to advance the plot by much. Plus, there were a lot of inconsistencies—Lydia and Valentina can hardly afford to feed themselves, but the rabbit SunYat-sen is in absolutely blooming health. There’s a lot of gratuitous violence, too. Nor does the author seem to know much about Russian or Chinese culture and history. A huge disappointment, especially since this novel seemed promising.