“No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart’s status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism,” inspector general of China’s Customs Service, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems and schools. However, his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine. Sterling Seagrave, in Dragon Lady, calls her Hart’s sleep-in dictionary and says she was wise beyond her years. Soon after arriving in China in 1854, Hart falls in love with Ayaou, but his feelings for her sister go against the teachings of his Christian upbringing and almost break him emotionally. To survive he must learn how to live and think like the Chinese. He also finds himself thrust into the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest rebellion in human history, where he makes enemies of men such as the American soldier of fortune known as the Devil Soldier. During his early years in China, Robert experiences a range of emotion from bliss to despair. Like Damascus steel, he learns to be both hard and flexible, which forges his character into the great man he becomes. Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, The Concubine Saga is the deeply intimate story of Hart’s loyalty and love for his adopted land and the woman who captured his heart. Historical fiction potboiler, yes. But where The Concubine Saga truly shines is its thought-provoking passages on relationships, attitudes and cultural differences. The heated dialogue between Hart and Ayaou will especially touch a nerve for any westerner who has ever lived and loved in China…” Thomas Carter, photojournalist and author of “China: Portrait of a People”
When I first started to read this story, I found it a little difficult to read because I felt so dismayed over the the way of life of the Chinese and the men’s treatment of their women. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stomach it and continue. But I did continue and I’m glad I did….
As Robert first comes to China, I could only imagine the culture shocked he experienced. But he certainly embraces their way of life quickly and as the story unfolds he comes into power that is just incredible. I learned a great deal about China in the 1800’s by reading this story and I applaud Lofthouse for his vivid details and well researched novel.
I rated this novel three and a half stars.