Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: White Gardenia, by Belinda Alexandra

Review by: Sarah Blanchette 

I spent hours perched on the rim of the bathtub, peering in the mirror at the stranger I was becoming. I was both exhilarated and depressed about the changes in me. Each step towards womanhood was a step closer to Dimitri and a step away from the child I had been with my mother. I was no longer the young daughter to whom she had sung songs about mushrooms and whose stubby hand she had bruised because she held it so tightly, never wanting to let me go. I wondered if my mother would even recognize me. (p.85).

From the very beginning of my journey through White Gardenia, I was completely enamored with the writing style. Due to the historic content of the book, the added sensory and flowing syntax allowed me to remain engaged. I had to call on some high school AP History lectures to place my mind in the timeframe of the ending years of World War II, but found that the explanations given actually expanded my knowledge of the time period. Viewing the war and post-war years through various cultural lenses was pretty eye opening as well. I always respect writers who exhibit their expertise and research in their creative writing endeavors, and Belinda Alexandra accomplishes this beautifully.

Official synopsis:
It is the final days of World War II and the Japanese occupation of China is crumbling. In Harbin, White Russian émigrés who fled the murderous Bolsheviks now face an invading Soviet force ‘repatriating’ citizens and helping their Chinese comrades wreak revenge against the Japanese and anyone accused of collaborating.

Recently widowed Alina Kozlova accommodates a Japanese general in her home, afraid of the consequences for herself and her young daughter, Anya, if she refuses. Little could she know what the tragic ramifications would be. And so begins a story of heartbreak and hope that sweeps across cultures and continents – from the glamorous nightclubs of Shanghai to the harshness of Cold War Soviet Russia; 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 incident and historical detail, this is a compelling and beautifully written tale about yearning and forgiveness.


{source: http://www.belinda-alexandra.com/white-gardenia}


When choosing to review this book I had some expectations. I was hoping that the plot would connect in some way to my life, of course on a smaller level, and allow me to see my own relationship with my mother as even more valuable than I already do. As far as my perception of the plot, at times I forgot that the driving force behind Anya’s inner fire was the hunger to find her mother because there were so many external blows that, at times, I became distracted. However, I feel that this construction allowed me to be less able to predict what was going to happen, which was very pleasing. Beyond the obvious of the book being tinged with unavoidable sadness, no matter what bright spots presented themselves, I could not help but envy Anya’s strength and perseverance. We often forget about the bond held with the people we love, whether our relationships are positive or not. I feel like this book is the perfect reminder of how things can be so beautiful and then fall apart so quickly.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone I meet. My rating of 4 out of 5 stars is solely because I felt that the intensity of Anya and her mother’s relationship was not as established as I was hoping in the beginning of the book. The progression of time was also a little confusing.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

About the reviewer:

Sarah Blanchette is an artist, writer, designer, and graduate of the journalism and studio art undergraduate programs at Oakland University. She lives in Metro Detroit with her two Flemish Giant bunnies, Beedo and Maizy.

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