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Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) Paperback – December 1, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book a long time ago and I was still as fascinated by it now.Published 3 days ago by Dez
Wonderful insight into the Chinese culture of dynasties and the royal life. Pearl S. Buck opens our eyes to a culture more ancient and dedicated to traditions and ancestors than... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Elle Bee
I have always enjoyed Pearl Buck's books and will get through them all in due course.Her writing is superb, the story is strong and one feels as if you are a watching everything... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Susannah
This book is fabulous. It is well written and is as accurate historically as possible. Pearl Buck lived in China for quite a long time. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Shelley
The characters were well developed and interesting. The story also revealed much about the culture and time. Well written and interesting.Published 3 months ago by Natalie M. Ferry