Good and evil mingled in her, but always in heroic dimensions.
3.5 stars. This is the story of Empress Tzu-hsi, who ruled the Manchu dynasty in China for 47 years. In 1852 she was selected as a concubine for the Emperor. She was extremely strong-willed and decided that she would become the Emperor's favourite. She did this by studying 5 hours every day, staying up to date with all gossip, studying all edicts, becoming very close with the Dowager mother and ,according to this novel, giving up her one true love. She captivated the very weak Emperor, and ensured that he loved no other liked her, and even allowed her to rule the country in his stead.
Tzu-hsi is one of the most complex characters I've ever come across. She could be gentle and kind, but also cruel and vain. She was always strong and majestic. Unfortunately her negative characteristics became more pronounced as she got older, causing me to become quite averse to her by the end of the book.
I always enjoy reading books about other cultures, and this books was especially fascinating, because of the time period and country. Reading about the Forbidden city (where the Emperor was the only male allowed at night. To stay in the city past twilight you had to be a woman or a eunuch.)and all the royal rituals was intriguing.
Although I realize the importance of the portrayal of the wars and resistances, I have to say it became a bit too longwinded. That said I will be reading The Good Earth
by this Nobel prize winning author soon.
"You have chosen greatness," he said in her silence. "Therefore you must be great."