Monday, November 24, 2008

88. "Empress Orchid" - Anchee Min

Reading this book was a delightful accident. I thought I had requested a book about Tsu Hsi, the Empress Dowager of China who was feared as one of the cruelest rulers in history. Oh, wait. This is about Tsu Hsi's rise to power? Where's the blood, the gore, the examples of just plain awfulness?

Not in this book.

Still, it's a quick read, skipping light as a breeze over all that boring history stuff and focusing on the manipulation of other wives/concubines of the emperor (Hsien Feng). Her servants did the killing and hurting, not Orchid/Tsu Hsi. She was too busy learning how to pleasure the emperor and save the kingdom.

So the writing is sympathetic to Tsu Hsi; it's still an interesting look at Chinese history (yes, I was being snide - I like the history "stuff"). However, after being told that she was one of the most horrible female leaders in world history, I'd like a real view of this woman. Any suggestions?

2.75 out of 5.0 Green Tea Vodkas.


mee said...

I once went to a musical play of this Last Empress of China in Singapore. It was really good and beautiful, one of the best show I've seen. But that also went in favor of her. She was portrayed as someone who was just lonely, longed for love of the Emperor that she never had, and tried to do things she thought were right. I heard that this brought anger to many people, because the real Empress was horrible (so they said).

Stefania said...

Gosh, you read so quickly!!! :)

Kristin Dodge said...

Interesting... my friend's argument was similar - she was horrible, akin to Catherine the Great. Yet everything tries to transform her into a misunderstood creature.

Yes, I read incredibly fast. My son held up a comic yesterday and I laughed. He said, "Wait, do you get it? Did you read it already?" However, long-term memory? Not so much... thus, the birth of the blog. Otherwise, I'd read the same books over again, thinking, "This is so familiar."

Josette said...

I have this book on my bookshelf, never got around to reading it. But I did read about the empress online and was fascinated by the things she did just to gain control and power!