Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Hart: Elegy for a Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse

Last year, I had the opportunity to review the award winning 'My Splendid Concubine' by Lloyd Lofthouse. I really enjoyed it and told Lloyd that I would love to review his sequel. Luckily, he took me up on and my offer.

'Our Hart' is the continuation of the fictionalized account of the real person, Robert Hart. In 'My Splendid Concubine' he was an interpreter for the British Consulate in China. He fell in love with two concubines, Ayaou and her younger sister Shao-mei. At the end of the book, Shao-mei, was killed by someone out to get revenge on Robert.

In 'our Hart', Robert and Ayaou grieve over Shao-mei and Robert tries to better protect Ayaou. As his career grows, so does his family. Ayaou has children and their eunuch servant, Guan-Jiah becomes a surrogate uncle for the children. Robert became the deputy commissioner of customs for the Ch’ing dynasty in his late 20's. and it kept him away from his family for long stretches at a time. He was indispensible to the dynasty and work for them in to his senior year. They fondly referred to him as "Our Hart".

Our Hart is the story of Robert's lifelong career in China and his relationship with Ayaou and his lifetime servant, Guan-Jiah. Lloyd Lofthouse does a great job pacing the story and keeping the reader engaged. I thought the story got a bit repetitive with Ayaou's whining and questioning Robert's love but other than that it was a great story. Note, that I read an uncorrected proof, so perhaps some of Ayaou's whining was reduced.

Though 'Our Hart' could be read as a standalone book, I highly recommend that you read 'My Splendid Concubine' first, as it gives you quite a bit of background that makes 'Our Hart' a richer read. I highly recommend both of these books to historical fiction lovers who are interested in Chinese culture.

If you are interested in learning more about the books, Robert Hart, and China, Lloyd Lofthouse has a blog with some great links to explore. It is called, Learning China.



  1. Teddy, thank you for the wonderful review. You were correct about Ayaou's behavior and through revisions after the ARC copies went out and suggestions came in from critical readers that offered early advice, Ayaou's behavior is better linked to her sister's brutal death. Due to revisions, as the novel progresses, Ayaou manages (with help and strained understanding from Robert) to heal from the trauma or at least cope with it. Both Ayaou and Robert suffered Post Traumatic Stress from the death of Shao-mei. Both react in different ways. A new scene with Uncle Bark clarifies this.

  2. I really love the idea of reading more HF set in China.

    Off to add the book to my TBR list.

  3. This sounds like a fascinating book about a neglected land and period (from historical fiction point of view) - thanks so much for recommending and sharing your thoughts


  4. So glad you loved this book! I read and reviewed it a few weeks ago and thought that Lofthouse did a wonderful job with it. I got a bit sick of Ayaou as well and thought that she was indeed a bit whiny, but overall the book was great. I hadn't read the first book, but I am interested in going back and giving it a try as well. Great review!

  5. Lloyd, thanks for stopping by. I hope to read a finished copy one day. I'm glad that you were able to re-work those few thing but those were just minor complaints. I really enjoyed the book!

    Marg, be sure to read My Splendid Concubine first.

    Hannah, Both his books are great. I recommend you read them in order.

    Zibilee, I hope you do read the first book as well.