Martin's Must Reads: 'China: The Novel'
“January 1839. At first he did not hear the voice behind him. The red sun was glaring in his face as he rode across the center of the world. ‘Mr. Jiang!’ He heard it this time. ‘Jiang Shi-Rong! Wait!”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are a few lines from the beginning of Edward Rutherfurd’s newest 761 page saga, China: the Novel. She-Rong is just the first of many characters whose lives are followed over the course of seventy-two years of Chinese history. She-Rong becomes the assistant to an official tasked with putting an end to the opium trade.
In the first chapter, the reader is also introduced to Mei-Ling who lives in Canton with her husband and children and yearns for visits from her adopted brother Nio (a pirate and soldier in subsequent wars). And to John Trader, an Englishman who, in order to be wealthy enough to deserve the hand of a certain merchant’s daughter, enters into the opium trade. And to Cecil Whiteparish, a Christian missionary who works tirelessly to convert those around him. Eventually the reader meets Laquer Nail, a man who becomes a eunuch in order to provide for his family by serving in the Emperor’s palace.
As the book jacket says this is “an epic tale chronicling China’s conflict to regain its ancient land and culture from the domination of the Western powers, from the Opium Wars though the Taiping revolt, the British burning of the Summer Palace, the Boxer Rebellion and the long rule of the Dragon Empress.”
If you’re looking for an engrossing novel about a key period in China’s history filled with scoundrels and heroes and every type in between, then you must read China: A Novel by Edward Rutherfurd.