Monday, January 5, 2009

Review: My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse

Robert Hart, a young Irishman, came to China in 1854 to work for the British Consulate. He ended up spending his life there and becoming intricately involved in the development of modern China, helping to found the railroads, postal service and schools.

This novel fictionalizes Robert's first year or so in China. He is confronted almost immediately by the vast moral differences between eastern culture and the Christianity that he has grown up with. He has a hard time reconciling the Chinese practice of owning people, especially concubines, with his own beliefs. The Chinese system of status and rank is also difficult for a westerner to understand.

He originally decides to remain celibate, but once he meets and falls in love with the concubine Ayaou his problems seem to mushroom. He becomes caught up in the violent Taiping Rebellion where he witnesses terrible atrocities. Then Ayaou is bought by an American pirate who hates Robert and he must figure out a way to free her. In the process he ends up, almost accidentally, buying her younger sister, Shao-mei. He loves both women and his conscience is sorely tested by his situation. The only way to live the life he wants to live is to completely abandon his previous life and learn to be Chinese. Along the way he finds that he loves his adopted culture, their art and philosophy inspire him.

I enjoyed this book, particularly the setting and depictions of 1854 China. I felt for Robert and his inner conflicts and would like to know more about his life after the events of this novel. It would be interesting to read (perhaps in a sequel?) of his advancement within the Chinese system and his later family life.

Visit the authors website

Many thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me this book for review!

My Splendid Concubine is published by iUniverse. ISBN 978-0-595-45843-1

Order My Splendid Concubine from Amazon


Beth F said...

Nice review. I've read a couple of books that take place in China during the same time period, but I haven't read one with a Westerner as the main character.

Dorothy Thompson said...

Thank you for hosting Lloyd today, Carey! Wonderful review!

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the great review!

Lloyd said...

Thank you for the supportive review. You mentioned it would be nice to see what happens to Robert Hart after the conclusion to My Splendid Concubine. Our Hart, the sequel, should be out in a few months. Just a few hundred more hours of revisions and editing to the completed manuscript and the novel will be ready. In Our Hart, Robert quits his job with the British and goes to work for the Emperor of China. Not long after that, a violent incident catapults Hart into the position of Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs. Ayaou and Robert move to Peking to be close to the center of power as Robert rebuilds a dependable, honest and efficient Chinese Maritime Customs Service. The challenges are daunting. Soon the Chinese royal princes are calling Robert "Our Hart", because he is the only one they can trust. However, The Taiping’s want Robert dead because single handedly he brings financial stability to the Ch’ing Dynasty and influences what is taking place in the battlefield so that the Emperor’s forces begin winning battles instead of losing them. I hope I haven’t given away too much of the story. What I have revealed is the tip of the iceberg.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Very well written review. I'm admittedly very poorly read when it comes to the Far East. This looks lovely, though.

By the way, I'm tagging you for the Buddy Award!

Cheryl said...

Oh Lloyd, that's great news. I'm so thrilled to hear you're working on a sequel. I've so much enjoyed learning all about "My Splendid Concubine" during your VBT. And you've certainly become a V-log guru.

Best of luck in 2009!


Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Carey - Tattered Cover is all I've got if you'll be in Denver this month (the zoo is my favorite of anywhere, but not this time of year!). There's a great Natural History museum next door to the zoo, though. I used to go there all the time.

Personally, if I could snag DEN trips, I'd be spending all my time at the Tattered Cover. I'm so jealous you're going to be hanging out there! There are also quite a few great breweries downtown with huge pool tables and lots of fun if you have a decent crew (and CA who is buying, ha ha). Be sure to let me know what you snag at the Tattered Cover!!!!

The Tome Traveller said...

Oh good, Lloyd! As the pages dwindled I just knew that the end would not satisfy my curiosity about Robert's later years. I'll be looking forward to reading more about his remarkable career and life!

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful review. I would have loved to review this book! I love this kind of historical fiction and added it to my TBR.

Dar said...

Great review. I've just started this novel and I'm already enjoying it.

Kaye said...

This is definitely going on the wish list. The cover art is just gorgeous. Great review.

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.