Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book Review; The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel

Title: The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel: A Novel
Author: Maureen Lindley
Rating: ****
Tags: historical fiction, china, japan, women, spies

Interesting historical novel based on the life of a real woman, the Chinese princess Eastern Jewel. She lives with her father, his concubines, and many brothers and sisters until age 8, when her misbehavior seems too much and she is sent to Japan to be adopted by a man named Kawashima. She is introduced to sex early on, seemingly on the principle that that's what girls are for and she is quite attractive. She has many lovers including her adopted father. When she has become too notorious, he marries her to a Mongolian prince. Mongolia is too cold and uninteresting for her, and she manages to escape to Shanghai where she serves her beloved Japan as a spy.

The story is a fascinating one. Eastern Jewel is a woman who goes her own way at all costs, and it costs her much throughout her life. Her narration is self-absorbed, but the other characters do become real, and there are people she loves dearly. The picture she presents of Shanghai is complex, an amazingly cosmopolitan city which includes a particularly nasty side to it.

A well-drawn picture of exotic places, good characters and the best of times, the worst of times.

Publication Bloomsbury USA (2009), Paperback, 304 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 1596917032 / 9781596917033

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