Author: Lloyd Lofthouse
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: iUniverse Publisher’s Choice
My Rating: 3/5
Sir Robert Hart was a British Consular Official in China. He is referred to as the Father of China’s modernization. He was the architect behind China’s railroads, postal network, telegraph systems and schools. No westerner ever achieved Hart’s status and level of power in China. Hart was born and raised in Ireland. He moved to China in 1854 to become an interpreter for the British Consulate in China.
The book “My Splendid Concubine” is a historical fiction written by Lloyd Lofthouse. It is based on Sir Robert Hart’s life in China and concentrates on one side –his dark side(if we can call it that) which was kept a secret and not known to many. The Hart in this book is not the “Father of China’s Modernization” but rather an ordinary man who sleeps with his boss’s concubine, who has underhand dealings with a notorious opium dealer, etc. The first chapter of the book happens in 1908 when Hart is old and sick. He meets with the Empress of China before leaving China for good and returning to his home country – Ireland. During that brief meeting with her, he confides in her. He tells her a secret that he’s been living with in China – his concubine, Ayaou.
The rest of the book is about Hart’s and Ayaou’s passionate love affair. Hart first meets Ayaou when he rescues her family during a violent revolt. Later at a friend’s palce, he is surprised to see her again and realizes that her dad is trying to sell her and her sisters as concubines to the highest bidder. Hart is willing to pay any amount to get her but by a cruel twist of events she is sold to a heartless man – Ward. Hart eventually lands up buying her sister Shao-Mei to protect her. But since he is in love with Ayaou, he is unable to take Shao-Mei as a concubine in the truest sense. By a twist of events, Hart manages to get hold of Ayaou again. Though he intends to pay Ward for her, he never gets around to doing it. Hart moves into a house with Ayaou and Shao-Mei and spends some of the happiest moments of his life with his two girls.
“My Splendid Concubine” is a well researched book and gives us an peek into the life of the Chinese in the early 20th century. We learn a lot about their customs and traditions. I loved that part of the book.
The only thing that I could have done without was the excessive sexual content. It is true that many women in the China that we are reading about in the book are merely treated as sex slaves. They do very little in their lives apart from entertaining the men and “warming their beds”. It is for this fact alone that I give this book only 2.5 stars.
Apart from that, I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks to Dorothy from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me a review copy of this book.