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Empress Orchid Paperback – 3 Jan 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (3 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747568332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747568339
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘A stirring, exotic novel that is a treat for the senses and the intellect alike’ -- Los Angeles Times

‘A wild, passionate, fearless American writer’ -- New York Times

‘Empress Orchid is strong on both sexual chicanery and violent conspiracy ... fascinating’ -- Guardian

‘Engrossing ... enhanced by Min’s imaginative power ... Like all good novelists, she implies as much as she says’ -- Glasgow Herald

From the Publisher

An enthralling, erotic story of Imperial China from the author of Red Azalea and Becoming Madame Mao

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By J F Atkin on 28 Jun 2005
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up at the airport and read the back while waiting for my husband to buy some magazines. I hadnt even finished the back cover and knew i had to have it.
The storyline centres around Orchid, a young Chinese girl in the 1800's who is chosen as one of the Emperor's Concubines and becomes one of the most powerful women in Chinese history. It follows her life from enterting into her marriage and gives you a real insight into the Forbidden City and life as a concubine.
This is an extremely enjoyable read which is written in an easy to follow style. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author has written it, her style is fresh and keeps your attention constantly.
The character of Orchid and that of her head Eunuch are both interesting and very likeable characters. The voice of Orchid is truthful and entertaining with a hint of every emotion possible. There are tearful moments and laugh out loud snippets.
I would recommend this book happily, and would have given it 5 stars but for the fact i felt the ending was a little frustrating. The author finished on what she believes to be a high note and a good ending, but part of her writing style is to tell you parts of the future throughout the book in a casual manner (for example from the beginning Orchid tells us about being the most powerful woman in China by becoming the Empress, you dont have to read past the first chapter to see she will survive through all death threats etc in the book). However at the end i felt that a few of these casually mentioned parts of the story were not finished off and i found that frustrating. I really needed to know more! Its almost like there was going to be a second part, you were left really wanting more.
I am a big fan of Memoirs of a Geisha and Geisha of Gion, and although a totally different subject manner, i found this book equally fascinating.
Happy reading!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stella TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 April 2008
Format: Paperback
I loved it. The story of a girl overcoming hardships, set in the Forbidden City. She goes from nothing to becoming one of the most formidable women in China at the time. It's a work of fiction but is based on a real character, the Empress Dowager. This book only takes us through her early life though, before she becomes the Dowager empress and the story continues with the sequel. It was wonderful to soak up the atmosphere, pomp and ceremony from the pages and I can't wait to read what happens to her next.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "rhiannon124" on 5 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
I saw this book advertised on Richard and Judy's Bookclub and decided to get it. I'm so glad that i did, for it is a fantastic read. I found the main character Orchid to be a really strong and determined woman, who I grew to love. Her life is so tragic as a young girl, and you wonder how she and her family will survive with no money and no father to provide for them. I was horrified at the thought of her marrying her opium-addict cousin, and desperatley wanted her to fall in love with the emperor, which she did, but unfortuantley, it wasn't that simple in that time. Her fight to win the affections of the emperor and the things that she did in order to gain experience were incrediable, and the relationship between Orchid and the other empress, Nuharoo, had me turning the pages until the end. It also has some humerous parts which made me laugh out loud, like when she wanted to use the chamber pot with her maids around. I also grew to love the character of An-te-hai, and really wanted to slap her son Tun Chih at times! A truely enchanting and enlightening tale, the only reason it didn't get five as that it sometimes dragged a little.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Feb 2006
Format: Paperback
I was drawn to this book as I have read a few others which are similar. I came to the book having quite high hopes for it, and I have to say, I was disappointed. For me the beginning was far too drawn out. While I understand that Min wanted to convey the longing and the loneliness of Orchid as she waited to be summoned by the Emporor, for me it just went on for too long. It got to the stage where I found her main character a bit whiny and irritating. This is something I do not say lightly - I have read many early Japanese memoirs by court ladies, and fiction such as THE SECRETS OF JIN-SHEI which is set in medieval China, and I have loved the way the authors expressed their loneliness and isolation living within a world dictated by ritual. Personally, for me, Min did not achieve the delicate balance of mixing despair with beauty and hope.
I think one of the underlying problems is that Min did not develop certain aspects of the story well enough. The plot seemed to jump from one situation to the next with little or no explicit progression. For example, I think the collapse of China around Orchid was not developed well enough - that part of the story seemed rushed and slightly forgotten, it just seemed to appear from the page when you least suspectd it. It could have been a fascinating and heart-rending description of a forgotten world and how it met it's demise, with comparisons of how life was and then what it became, yet I don't think this is what Min did. Likewise, she did not truly develop Orchid's longing for another man. Until the very end of the book, I don't think she concentrated on it enough - again it could have been a fabulous opportunity for a stark contrast between Orchid's feelings of obligation and her heart's desire opposing this.
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