About the Book: Russia, 1910. The young Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy, charming them with both her classic Russian beauty and her talent for piano. But it is a scandal when she chooses her love not from their stock, or even from Russian blood. Her romance with Jens Friis, a Danish engineer, brings to her life a passion and intimacy she has never known. Unbending in their opposition, her parents push her into a loveless engagment with a Russian count.
Valentina struggles to claim her own independence. But at the same time she is desperate to protect her young sister from the dangerous tumult that is sweeping through the city.
Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the tsar and the duma at each other's throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever....
My thoughts: I really enjoy reading historical fiction and this book was definitely no exception. In my opinion, there is no more enjoyable way to learn history! And Russian history is something I knew very little of. My interest is definitely whetted by reading this excellent piece of fiction.
Valentina was an interesting protagonist - some of her characteristics (her sense of duty and loyalty to her family, especially her sister; her determination; her desire to become a nurse despite its lowly status) make her intensely loveable, while others (her naivete; her foolishness) do not.
You get to see the two drastically different sides of Russia as Valentina dances at opulent balls and enters the poorest districts of the city. The chasm between the elite and the poor is simply mind boggling.
It's so frustrating to see history played out, knowing that so much of the war and strife could have been prevented - you know, if selfish and proud humans were not the ones in control.
Thank you to Penguin Group for providing me with my complimentary review copy of The Jewel of St. Petersburg.