So Many Precious Books, So Little Time. I forgot to post it here on Historical Tapestry but wanted you to see this review, before I post my review to the sequel, Our Hart. Stay tuned for that review in a couple days.
This book is a fictionalized account of Robert Hart who was known as the 'Godfather of China's modernism'. Hart was born and raised in Ireland . In 1954 we went to China to work for the British Consulate as an interpreter.
Robert Hart was set on making up for his days of drinking and womanizing in Ireland. He went to China to prove himself and "grow up." When faced with the possibility of getting a concubine for himself, he felt quite conflicted. However, it was what men did in China, even most of the "foreign devils". He got a Chinese instructor and immersed himself in Chinese customs and culture.
He did end up getting two concubines, his first year in China. Ayaou and her younger sister Shao-mei. He taught Ayaou and Shao-mei how to read and enjoyed life with them both.
When he first met Ayaou, it was love at first site. He planned to buy her from her father but Ward, an American Opium smuggler, beat him to it. He was devastated and set out to rescue her from Ward, who is known for his mistreatment of his concubines. Robert does end up with Ayaou but with tragic consequences.
It took Lloyd Lofthouse close to 9 years to research and write this wonderful book. The pages kept on turning late into the night. This novel mostly covers Robert Hart's life in China for his first year. He did eventually move on from the British Consulate and became Inspector General of Chinese Mandarin Customs, the Senior Guardian of the Heir Apparent of the Ch'ing dynasty, and the chief adviser for the Emperor.
My only complaint is that I would have liked to have learned more about Hart and how he became so important to China. I also would have liked to know what finally happened to Ayaou. This book is only 250 pages and I wish that it would have been long enough to touch on these important details. Could there be a book II in the works? I hope so!
I highly recommend this book! Be forewarned, there are some juicy sex scenes in this book. If that kind of thing bothers you, don't read this book.