By: Belinda Alexandra
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 24, 2015
Belinda Alexandra delivers a captivating story in her latest novel, White Gardenia.
In 1960’s Russia, the Cold War is quite alive. In the final days of World War II, there is a small district,the city of Harbin, that was the last hold-out and safe haven for White Russian families since the Communist Revolution in Russia. Alina Kzolova has reached her crossroads and the time has come for her to make her decision. In order to protect her only child, Anya, she must separate from her. Through finite arrangements, Alina coordinates the safe transport of Anya with family friends Olga and Borus. Resolved to spend the rest of her life in the confines of a Russian prison, in her mind, it is the small price she must pay for Anya’s safe passage to Shanghai. Neither mother nor child can possibly know the sacrifices that lie ahead for both.
Unlike many Russian refugees, Anya has a place to go once in Shanghai. Sergei Nikolayevich and his bride, Amelia, welcome Anya; at least Sergei does. It seems Amelia is anything but amorous and nurturing when it comes to consoling young Anya. Tolerance at best would be a fitting way to describe the relationship between the two. Anya is enrolled in the Santa Sophia School for Girls and continues her studies while adapting to her new life. She is brave to put up the front of happiness and cooperation, but the reality is she is near distraught with sorrow daily not knowing the status of her mother or if she will ever see her again. When dark and mysterious Dimitri enters her life, perhaps this is more than destiny. Perhaps Anya is not as fragile as the white gardenia her father assured her she was so many years ago...
This is Belinda Alexandra’s second American novel (on the heels of her International best seller, Tuscan Rose). While I’ve not read her previous work, after reading White Gardenia I am compelled to go back and do so. Alexandra has a distinct style of spoon-feeding set up to her audience and a fluid way of narrating her story. There is a natural comfort and a recognizable voice and tone to her writing style. Alexandra covers a vast landscape in the writing of White Gardenia (Russia, China and Australia) and in each demographic, she manages to paint a picture that is recognizable even if the reader has never set foot on the continent. She spends time orienting the reader with not only cultural differences, but the Cold War period of time and how it affected each of the regions. I admire a writer who embraces fiction, but is committed to getting the facts down to complement and infuse reality into the overall body of work. I can see why Ms. Alexandra is “...widely acclaimed...” White Gardenia is an engaging story full of historical backdrop filled with characters quite believable. Indeed, a winning formula for a great read. Well done Ms. Alexandra. I look forward to your next novel.
Quill says: White Gardenia is a novel that will take the reader through a litmus of emotions. The writing is solid and carries the reader along the ebb of hope as much as it plunges its audience into the depth of despair. This is an engaging page-turner.