Sunday, 11 September 2011

I enjoyed The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall on my Baltic Cruise.

I love choosing books set in the country that I'm visiting, so when I saw The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall, earlier this year, I couldn't resist taking it on my Baltic cruise. I was also delighted to find that I had gone up the staircase on the cover, or one very similar to it in The Hermitage museum. Wow!
The only other book I'd read about the Russian Revolution was Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montifiore, the husband of one of my favourite novelists, Santa Montifiore. Simon, being an historian, painted a grim, but truthful picture of a young woman from a ruling family caught up in the violence and ruthlessness of the workers determined to change Russia for a new world which they believed in.
Kate's story, too, focuses on a similar young woman, Valentina, her family and Jens, a Danish engineer who wants to make the city a better place. Although it doesn't go as far into the twentieth century as Sashenka, it nevertheless graphically describes the violence and murder fanned by the desires of fanatics. Other characters represent people caught up in the struggle are Arkin, their chauffeur, but a secret revolutionary, and Popov, a Kossak who is loyal to Valentina.
The ending is full of suspense, and I loved it far better than Sashenka's dreadful fate.
Just having visited St Petersburg, I could place some of the events at The Winter Palace, the Nevsky Prospekt, and The Aurora, the ship which sounded its horn to start the Revolution. Peter the Great built this city to surpass those in Europe with its gold statues, and pastel coloured buildings. What a setting for a novel.
I wondered why Kate Furnivall chose it for her story and visited her website which told me that her mother spent her childhood in Russia, China and India, and Kate used her experiences in another novel, The Russian Concubine. Well, I enjoyed this one so much, I'll certainly be reading the other one too!

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