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My Splendid Concubine [Paperback]

Lloyd Lofthouse , Anchee Min
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 12 2009
Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, continues the love story that Robert Hart did not want the world to discover. It is well known that behind every great man, there is a woman. In Robert's case, that woman was his concubine, Ayaou. She remained a mystery for more than a century. Robert arrived in China in 1854. By 1908, he was the godfather of China's modernization. The Ch'ing Dynasty called him Our Hart. In Dragon Lady, Sterling Seagrave wrote, "By early May, he had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou.... Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years." In 1875, Robert described Ayaou as "one of the most amiable and sensible people imaginable," while casting himself blackly as "a fool." Praise for My Splendid Concubine My Splendid Concubine won honorable mentions in fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival, 2009 San Francisco Book Festival, and the 2009 Hollywood Book Festival. "My Splendid Concubine is packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and plot, a must read for historical fiction fans and a fine addition to any collection on the genre." —Midwest Book Review Online “A fascinating illumination of nineteenth-century Chinese culture and the complex Englishman Robert Hart, the father of China’s modernization. Hart’s struggles adapting to Chinese culture, always feeling the pull and force of his Victorian British background, are compelling. His relationships with his concubine and his concubine’s sister are poignant—the novel is as much a study of the complexities of love as it is anything else. A powerful novel ...” —Judge of 2008 Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The true-life exploits of Sir Robert Hart May 26 2010
Format:Paperback
It is in the natural order of literature that famed authoress Anchee Min's (Pearl of China) significant other, Lloyd Lofthouse, is the latest author to join the ranks of China historical fiction writers with his highly-anticipated debut novel, My Splendid Concubine, which traces the true-life exploits of Sir Robert Hart.

Lofthouse's Hart is not the idol that encyclopedias portray him as; he is a flawed man. Enticed into purchasing his first concubine, boat-girl Ayaou, Hart is at once disgusted and stirred by the thought of "taking bids on her virginity," but admits to himself that "it bothered him more that he found the idea tempting."

Regardless of the novel's title, Ayaou is not Sir Robert Hart's "concubine." For all intents and purposes, she is stolen property liberated by Hart from a rival. Hart's true splendid concubine is in fact Ayaou's little sister. Only fourteen years old, the blossoming Shao-mei is admittedly even more desirable than Ayaou. "I'm not a finished woman, but I am a woman." She slid her hands down the length of her nude torso to her vulva..."

My Splendid Concubine is rife with the sexual dalliances of a white man adrift in China ("What a strange night, a strange place and strange girls"). Lofthouse also plaits his page-turning story with amusing cultural anecdotes that surely must have come from the author's personal observations of China ("Live here long enough, see crazy things").
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5.0 out of 5 stars A poignant biographical novel May 31 2013
By Great Historicals TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
My Splendid Concubine is a biographical novel about the life of Robert Hart, a British official in China. Born in Ireland, while he attended university, he gained a reputation for his rampant sexual escapades, despite his strict religious upbringing. His father intervened, put a stop to his womanizing, and arranged a post for him as a student interpreter in China. There he met, rescued, and fell in love with Ayaou, a young teen who, with her two sisters, were being sold into slavery/prostitution by their father. Struggling with the social norms and morals of the time, unable to marry her, he finally took her as his concubine. She bore him three children over the years. He was able to rescue one of Ayaou’s younger sisters, and the three set up a household.

Robert’s business acumen and strong communication skills brought him great success and he was soon promoted into more affluent positions. Soon, he gained a reputation of trust and respect from the highest levels of Chinese politicians, royalty, and officials. Despite his success, he struggled with his religious values and in the taking of concubines, a widely accepted practice among Caucasian men even though it was unacceptable in polite society.
Lloyd Lofthouse has written a “no-holds-barred” accounting of his tumultuous life. The author does not shy away from Hart’s strong sexual drive and encounters. He delves deeply into the relationships with Ayaou and her sister, bringing to life the heart-wrenching dilemma Hart faced. The author described the contrast between Hart’s sexual values and those of the women with great insight, for in China, being a concubine was far better than slavery or prostitution.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  44 reviews
47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian Gentleman in Nineteenth Century China March 31 2008
By D. Salerni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My Splendid Concubine is the story of Sir Robert Hart, a nineteenth century British consular and customs official who, over several decades, grew into a position of unprecedented respect and trust in China. The story opens in 1908 with the Empress Dowager granting an audience in the Forbidden City to an elderly Hart, Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs, but the novel is really about Hart's early days in China as a young interpreter.

Hart travels to China in 1854 seeking to redeem himself after a shameful episode of wenching and carousing at college that embarrassed his family. He first meets Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, who advises him to study everything around him in an effort to understand the Chinese and learn something new everyday. This is the only advice of its kind he receives from his own people, for Hart discovers that the rest of the Westerners view the Chinese culture with disdain and superiority. His first employer, for example, chastises him for trying to learn Mandarin, saying, "It is their place to understand us. We don't have to understand them."

While most of the British and American officials dismiss the Chinese as superstitious heathens, there is one part of the Chinese culture they are quick to assimilate: the taking of concubines. Hart finds it repugnantly hypocritical that his fellow countrymen should hold so little respect for the culture while indulging their own desires in a manner that Victorian society would condemn. He notes that, "on one hand the Europeans and British were shoving Christianity's message of brotherly love down the Chinese collective throat with the barrel of a rifle. At the same time foreign merchants, mostly British, were selling opium to the populace." Hart hopes to rise above such prejudice and lack of ethics, but finds himself sorely tempted by repeated opportunities to sample a service that the Chinese take for granted and the Westerners are perfectly happy to exploit.

And then Hart meets Ayaou, a fiery and courageous girl from the lowest sector of Chinese society, the boat people. Their startling and memorable introduction - which I will not reveal here - sparks a passion that takes the young Englishman by storm. Hart is willing to bankrupt himself to buy Ayaou from her father, who is selling her to provide for the rest of his family, but circumstances whisk her away and Hart finds himself compelled to buy her sister, rather than let the younger girl fall into undesirable hands.

Suddenly Hart owns a concubine, although not the woman he loves, and he is caught between his own Christian beliefs and the worshipful attention of young Shao-mei, who desperately wants to earn the love of her master. And what of Ayaou, who has been sold to the violent and unstable American mercenary soldier Frederick Townsend Ward? What ethics will Hart be willing to compromise in order to get her back?

Lloyd Lofthouse has created a rich cast of characters against the exotic and fascinating backdrop of nineteenth century China. Young Robert Hart is a sympathetic character who earnestly seeks to understand the Chinese culture in order to win acceptance there, and to find peace within his own soul. As Hart learns, so does the reader, for the author has skillfully woven lessons of the Chinese culture into the plot and setting. The girls, Ayaou and Shao-mei, are individually defined as characters and truly believable as sisters: sensually mature, playfully young, one moment presenting a united sisterly front, and the next moment squabbling with jealousy. And I have not even touched upon the pirates, the mercenaries, the opium dealers, and Hart's philosophizing eunuch servant! Don't pass up this debut novel by an author who will surely continue Robert Hart's saga and legendary career in a second novel.
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Should have listened to the bad reviews May 30 2011
By KiKi D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Being of Chinese descent, I thought it would be interesting to read how a foreigner made such an impact on Chinese history. I really like to read historical fiction, but I was extremely disappointed in this book. The characters were more like caricatures than real flesh and blood people. The writing was very stilted and amateurish. There was a voyeuristic feel to this book with WAY too much emphasis on the sexual thoughts and activities of Robert Hart and not enough plot formation or information on his true contributions to Chinese society. It seemed as if the the author was exploiting the culture of China so that he could fantasize about chinese women. I honestly don't know how this book received so many 4- and 5-star reviews. I agree with another reviewer who said, "DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!" I certainly won't be making the same mistake again by buying the sequel.
35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars bad historical fiction Dec 26 2010
By Nicole Child - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was horrible. I love historical fiction, but this seemed more of an excuse for musings on religion and soft-core porn; not a good combination. The writing was jumbled and repetitive and the story was never resolved. In the first twenty pages there were multiple references to the same incident (the dead babies in the water), which basically repeated the same information over and over again. It was frustrating that the writer didn't seem to trust the reader to remember details that occurred only pages before. Instead, he felt it was necessary to constantly repeat information that didn't add to the story at all. I wish I hadn't spent the $3.99 to buy this for my Kindle.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Started off so greaat April 3 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After describing the great man that the hero of the book was, I was set up to believe I would learn about his contributions to China and learn more about his roll in Chinese history. Instead it turned into a trite and tirering porno story about his love for his two concubines he purchased and the constant threat of their being re-posessed by the bad man. - So disapointing.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and Oversexed Aug. 26 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What could have been a really, really interesting story was completely drowned in premature ejaculation and the strange secondary theme of overcoming a religion-forbidden love for two women. I was bored silly and annoyed by how many times the story was interrupted by a sex scene.

I didn't even bother finishing the book, and frankly I'm annoyed at myself for buying the entire saga for my Kindle. If you are overcome by curiosity, check them out at the library so you don't feel like you've wasted your money on garbage.
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