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White Gardenia    by Belinda Alexandra order for
White Gardenia
by Belinda Alexandra
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2015 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Because of Bolshevism, many White Russians (Tzarist sympathizer) left their homes to begin new lives in China, mainly in the eastern cities of Harbin and Shanghai. But life there was also interrupted and became impossible once the Chinese Revolution began. First the Japanese were feared, then the Communists.

This is the story of a girl, Anya, who loses her Russian parents in Harbin. Neighbors send her to a friend in Shanghai for protection. Here she becomes accustomed to the high life of the wealthy Russians. This comes to an abrupt end, and she is lucky to be able to board a ship for refugees. They are taken to an island until countries are found that will accept them. Here Anya makes friends with other Russians and is able to travel with them to Australia. It is a big adjustment for all of them to make their lives in a country so different from what they have known. They start out with nothing, but gradually find ways to make lives for themselves. But, for Anya, throughout all her life's changes, the hope of seeing her mother again does not fade. Her fierce defense of that hope becomes her destiny, making her life more difficult, while confounding her friends.

This history of Russians abroad is quite interesting with all its twists and turns, although the ending seems a bit rushed. The life depicted in China and Australia as well as that in the refugee camp, seems very realistic and well researched. I did have a few problems, though. One was with the languages. Anya is the narrator, but in her story it was never clear which language was being spoken. This made it particularly confusing when the story was dealing with the Russians in Australia. Also, at important emotional turning points, I found Anya's reactions to be a bit prolonged. It often felt like she was over-reacting. Aside from these points, I did enjoy learning about this slice of history.

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