08 September 2009

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley

Flap Copy from ARC: "Peking, 1914. When the eight-year-old princess Eastern Jewel is caught spying on her father's liason with a servant girl, she is banished from the palace, sent to live with a powerful family in Japan. Renamed Yoshiko Kawashima, she quickly falls in love with her adoptive country, where she earns a scandalous reputation, taking fencing lessons, smoking opium and entertaining numerous lovers. Sent to Mongolia to become an obedient wife, Yoshiko mounts a daring escape and eventually finds her way back to Peking high society - this time with orders from the Japanese secret service."

First, I wish this book had been billed as pure fiction, rather than 'based on a true story'. I'm not sure how much truth Lindley managed to include in her story - I'm not sure that very much truth is actually known about Eastern Jewel. While her life and story would be riveting to explore, this novel seems taken entirely from Lindley's imagination and relies far too heavily on the princess and her supposed sexual exploits to fuel every plot twist.

The book is well-written and was a fast and enjoyable read, but I'm left with a definite distaste for Lindley's portrayal of life in Asia during such a tumultuous historical period. Eastern and Western characters alike are presented as stereotyped caricatures of real people, while the placement of plot points in actual history seemed disjointed - time is skewed, as 'years passed' but Eastern Jewel had only aged one year.

I give Lindley 3 stars for her vivid descriptions and smooth, easy writing style, but I wish she'd chosen pure fiction and left claims to historical accuracy for another genre.

1 comment:

  1. I've got this book in my TBR pile and I'm looking forward to it. I'll keep in mind your thoughts about it being fiction based on a true story - I think you have a valid point!