Customer Reviews


204 Reviews
5 star:
 (127)
4 star:
 (63)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:
 (7)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


131 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece
Imperial Woman tells the story of Tzu-Hsi, the last Empress of China. It is well known that she was a formidable, fierce and cruelly efficient leader, but this story begins when she is a beautiful young teenager, vibrant, full of life, and deeply in love with her cousin, a handsome and stalwart guard at the Imperial Palace.
As was the custom in the day (as I learned...
Published on June 8, 2002 by Wendy Kaplan

versus
37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great NOVEL, but has huge historical errors!
This is the first book I read about Tzu Hsi, and I found it totally engrossing. After reading a number of other, more recent biographical works on her reign, it is sad to see how so many very false assumptions about her (upon which Pearl Buck bases many of the key assumptions of this novel) have created a very distorted view of her as an individual, a leader, and...
Published on October 17, 2007 by L. Martin


‹ Previous | 1 221 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

131 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, June 8, 2002
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
Imperial Woman tells the story of Tzu-Hsi, the last Empress of China. It is well known that she was a formidable, fierce and cruelly efficient leader, but this story begins when she is a beautiful young teenager, vibrant, full of life, and deeply in love with her cousin, a handsome and stalwart guard at the Imperial Palace.
As was the custom in the day (as I learned from this book), the Emperor yearly picked a new crop of concubines from the daughters of the wealthy of China. It was considered a great honor to send one's daughter into whoredom at the palace, and the shocking details of how they were chosen and used make up the first part of the book. Our heroine, who is still known by her childhood name, Yehonala, is sent, along with her cousin Sakota--both are picked. On one inevitable night, Yehonala is sent to the Emperor's bedroom, and there loses her innocence forever, in more ways than one.
Swiftly becoming the Emperor's favorite, our heroine learns the intrigues of the palace, learning to trust nobody but to rely on only those closest to her. She consolidates her position by giving birth to the Emperor's only son, thus receiving the new name of "fortunate mother"--and a place of power higher than any woman in the palace.
But was the Emperor's son really his son? Can the formerly innocent concubine, fast becoming a political player worthy of anybody in today's world, stay alive to see her son crowned? Or will she be murdered in the truly baroque but terribly dangerous palace in-wars?
All is told in this fascinating book, written in Buck's simple but elegant style. This is one of her best, and well worth finding and reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pearl S. Buck's finest book-- and that's saying a lot., November 7, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
Though Tzu Hsi (pronounced Sue- Z) was the last Empress of China very little of her life-- both personal and private-- is known. Much as been written about this unfortunate woman; nearly all of it speculation and a good deal of it obscene. In her book "Imperial Woman" Mrs. Buck trys her hand at telling the story of Tzu Hsi and,in my opinion, comes about as close to the real woman as we're ever going to find. Tzu Hsi here is no cardboard figure but a flesh and blood woman with fear, ambition,helpless, cunning, triumphants, and deep loniless. All set mid-late 19th century China in a court, in a county, weak and rotting from the inside out while struggling to deal wth coming of the West and the 20th century. The characterization, dialogue, and discription are magnificent. A "must read"-- definatly!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruthless Ambition, December 1, 2003
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
All about Tzu-Hsi, last empress of China, who reigned from the 1860's until her death in 1908. She reigned during a period of great transition in China, as the book goes on there is increasing pressure from outside - the nations of England, France, Russia, United States and others demand from China increased trade and the rights to allow their citizens to live in China and their priests & missionaries to travel wherever they please. Japan too is an ever present threat. The empress was unable to adapt to modern times, and rather than building modern ships and arms that would have enabled China to defend itself, all the taxes collected were spent on luxuries and palaces for her, only at the very end of her days after defeat did she accept the idea that China could not keep itself isolated from all the other peoples of the world and finally opened to the idea of sending Chinese abroad to study foreign ways.
The story begins with the teenager Yehonala, betrothed to Jung-Lu, she and her cousin Sakota are chosen to be royal concubines of the Emperor, a sickly and weak man who so far has been unable to produce an heir. Through sheer guile and ambition, Yehonala becomes the favorite, and produces a son for the Emperor (or is it his son?). When the emperor dies, she becomes Empress mother, regent for her still young son, and upon his death she seizes the throne and becomes Empress in her own right, first sharing the throne with her cousin Sakota, then finally alone. As Empress of China, Tzu-Hsi has absolute power and can raise people up or down, have them beheaded or bestow mercy according to her whim, but she is unloved and deeply lonely as the extremely powerful often are.
This is a great novel, there is never a dull moment or wasted word and I found it hard to put down, this is a fascinating look at Chinese history and Tzu-Hsi herself is unforgettable. Selfish and sometimes foolish as she is, the reader is compelled to like her. I remember first reading about Tzu-Hsi in a novel called the Forbidden City by Muriel Jernigan and I never forgot her, it was a real treat to discover this book, a really great work of historical fiction.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Behind Every Great Woman..., May 12, 2005
By 
Melissa McCauley (North Little Rock, AR) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
IMPERIAL WOMAN is the fictionalized biography of the great Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, the real power behind the throne during the reins of the last four emperors of China. The story starts with her as a beautiful Manchu teenager who, along with her cousin Sakota, is picked for the emperor's crop of concubines. Through guile and ambition, Tzu Hsi bears the male heir to the emperor she comes to control. When the emperor dies young, Tzu Hsi makes sure she and Sakota are named regents for the young child emperor.

Through keen intelligence, intrigue, and whatever other means necessary, Tzu Hsi holds the imperial throne through her son's childhood. Buck portrays a woman split between feelings of love for her family and what is the best for the empire, rather than what I gather is the historical feeling - that Tzu Hsi was some sort of evil spider spinning schemes from the center of her web in Forbidden City. Through all the machinations and years she is aided by Jung Lu, her former betrothed and the love of her life.

The Dowager Empress has the ultimate power, but Buck shows she is a servant of the opinions of her court advisors and in reality only rules the eunuchs and court ladies in the Forbidden City. She is a relic of the past in a time of great change and cultural upheaval in China, when it is besieged by western nations and ideas. The infamous Boxer Rebellion is the beginning of the end for Tzu Hsi, and she loses her spirit and resolve after this defeat and the death of her beloved Jung Lu.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the finest work by this extraordinary writer, August 1, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Imperial Woman (Hardcover)
A fascinating account of the life of China's last Empress, as seen through the eyes of our foremost writer of Chinese historical fiction. While all of Buck's works are wonderful and vivid, Imperial Woman is truly one of her very best.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great NOVEL, but has huge historical errors!, October 17, 2007
By 
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
This is the first book I read about Tzu Hsi, and I found it totally engrossing. After reading a number of other, more recent biographical works on her reign, it is sad to see how so many very false assumptions about her (upon which Pearl Buck bases many of the key assumptions of this novel) have created a very distorted view of her as an individual, a leader, and particulalry as a woman.

Pearl S. Buck writes in her Foreward "I have tried to portray Tzu Hsi as accurately as possible from available resources...." and this, unfortunately, is the book's biggest flaw. The scholarship was often totally false and grossly distorted, and so western writers perpetuated many false assumptions about her.

Read Sterling Seagrave's Dragon Lady if you want a more accurate portrayal of her.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting peek behind a (19th century) closed border, October 15, 2008
There are some slight weaknesses to this so this could be 4 1/2 stars.
When I realized what this book was about I was quite surprised to find that a woman had ruled all of China to as recently as 1908, and for that reason alone it seemed like a promicing read, but it's even more then that.

This is a rare look into a different time and place with a different perspective. Principally this book is something of a biography of the Empress of China from 1861-1908, but starts some years before this period. One weakness is so little of the common China is dealt with. But it's a good look behind the palace walls and the thinking that transpires behind it, and indeed it is written from the empress's eye view...so little if any is seen from the eyes of the common people or even of her immediate suboordinates.

This is undoubtedly something of a romantisized and probably softened look at this ruler, and it would be interesting to find a second "opinion" story or even an autobiography of this Empress, if such a work exists (does it? anyone know?). This would give the reader a couple of views, as indeed Pearl speaks of the existance of a very negative view that also prevailed about this ruler at the time, but she never seems to take this on or expound this perspective.

No doubt this could be a eye opener to those who are not too in favour of women in power. But this book has some curious things to say about women in power as well, which come from the women themselves...which might serve as a cautionary note as well.

Though I found this book quite interesting for these reasons alone, it did something for the reader that I found facinating, though it took a while before this became evident. We are allowed to become so submerged into the thinking and ways of the Chinese ruler during this period, we begin to see from their perspective on the intrusions of the colonials making inroads into China during this time. We can empathise with them when they try to ward off and obfuscate the forceful traders, and we even find ourselves not liking those who would force thier ways and goods onto the Chinese for their own gain. One wonders what might have been had the Chinese been equal in military capacity to the intruders.

This is a very interesting book and it gives the reader a rare glimpse in behind a wall that is usualy closed to the outsider. One got the feeling of a rare freedom to "look around" and out from behind the Great wall.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN 1-CANT-PUT-THE-BOOK-DOWN WINNER, September 28, 1997
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
THE STORY OF AN ORDINARY WOMAN WHO USES HER EXTRAORDINARY TALENTS TO INFLUENCE HISTORY.THIS BOOK IS AN INTERWEAVING OF FACT AND FICTION, SUBMISSION AND REBELLION, WEAKNESSES AND POWER. VERY DESCRIPTIVE, RICH IN DETAILS OF AN ERA LONG GONE. THE HIDDEN STRUGGLES IN THE IMPERIAL CITY WILL KEEP YOU ABSORBED TILL THE END.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those novels that remains in your mind forever..., February 19, 2006
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
Powerful prose & imagery from a writer who learned to write, it is said, from the Bible. It reads much like the story of Esther from the old Testament. Pearl Buck's characterizations are built up layer by careful layer with simple words and in spare phrases. This is a lovely book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Personal Story. A Story of China., December 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) (Paperback)
I prefer to read history in novel form WHEN the historical aspects are close to the actual facts of the era . . . and when a given book is well-written, of course. Pearl S. Buck has captured a dramatically changing China, the intensity of its military factions and cultural alliances, and the extraordinary take-over of a vast land by various countries, including Portugal, Britain and America. Ms. Buck's attention to individual stations in the life of the Chinese presents a unique picture of family structure in and around a most amazing Empress and woman.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 221 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck)
Used & New from: $0.77
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.