Wednesday, September 9, 2015

White Gardenia by Belinda Alexander

Opening Paragraph: We Russians believe that if you knock a knife from the table to the floor, a male visitor will come, and if a bird flies into the room, the death of someone close to you is at hand. Both these events occurred in 1945, around my thirteenth birthday, but there had been no om,ens of dropped knives or stray birds to warn me.

Back Cover: From internationally bestselling author Belinda Alexandra comes a sweeping, emotional journey that “depicts vividly the powerful lifelong bond between mothers and daughters” (Paullina Simons, author of The Bronze Horseman).

In a district of the city of Harbin, a haven for White Russian families since Russia’s Communist Revolution, Alina Kozlova must make a heartbreaking decision if her only child, Anya, is to survive the final days of World War II.

White Gardenia sweeps across cultures and continents, from the glamorous nightclubs of Shanghai to the austerity of Cold War Soviet Russia in the 1960s, from a desolate island in the Pacific Ocean to a new life in post-war Australia. Both mother and daughter must make sacrifices, but is the price too high? Most importantly of all, will they ever find each other again?

Rich in historical detail and reminiscent of stories by Kate Morton and Lucinda Riley, White Gardenia is a compelling and beautifully written tale about yearning, longing, and the lengths a mother will go to protect her child.

Review by Mirella Patzer

I have been a fan of Belinda Alexander ever since I read and reviewed her novel, The Tuscan Rose. Her novels are ambitious family sagas that reach deep into various cultures and turmoils. This book follows along the same themes. 

Anya Kozlova is thirteen, and the novels follows most of her life as she climbs out of poverty to marry a man she is deeply in love with but who ultimately betrays here. The political situation in Shanghai during World War II is desperate and she is forced to flee the country along with other Russian refugees like her. 

Anya's story is very much one of loss. Intersprinkled throughout the tale are numerous characters, some kind, some deceitful, some harsh, and some who arouse suspicion. I thoroughly enjoyed Belinda Alexander's portrayal of these complex characters who evolve and change and never bored me. She writes with great poignancy while weaving a plot that is intricate and intriguing. Some underlying themes throughout are the bond between a mother and daughter, courage to persevere despite adversity, and trust and forgiveness. 

I adored the story from start to finish and highly recommend it those readers who love richly detailed, sprawling family sagas! Belinda Alexander's books are always ambitious, beautifully written, and solid reads. She is one of my favourite authors. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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