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The last empress
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Tzu Hsi (Female), Widow, Mother, Ambitious, Ex-concubine, Shrewd; courageous; resourceful; born into an aristocratic but impoverished family; wise; the last Empress of China; known as the Empress Orchid; lost her son and adopted son to early death; determined to keep her empire together; great political leader
Chinese culture
Chinese women
Chinese history
Role of women
Power struggles
Death of a child
Women's lives
China - Asia
Time Period
-- 19th century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Min returns to finish the story she began in the best-selling Empress Orchid. With an eight-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Min's Empress Orchid tracked the concubine Orchid's path to becoming Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi; this revisionist look at her long years behind her son Tung Chih's throne (1863-1908) won't disappoint Orchid's fans. Recounted through Tzu Hsi's first-person, the early chapters encompass her trials as a young "widow," as co-regent with the late emperor's wife and as a mother. An engaging domestic drama gives way to pedestrian political history; Tzu Hsi lectures like a popular historian on palace intrigue, military coups, the Boxer Rebellion and conflicts with Russia, France and Japan. Though tears flow, there is little passion (save Tzu Hsi's erotic but chaste longing for Yung Lu, commander of the emperor's troops). Min's empress adopts a notably modern psychologizing tone ("How much was Guang-hsu affected when he was wrenched from the family nest?"), earthy language ("You are the most wretched fucking demon I know!") and notes of historical prescience (including what "future critics" will say). Min attacks the popular conception of Tzu Hsi as a corrupt, ruthless, power-hungry assassin, but the results read less like a novel than a didactic memoir. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The last decades of the nineteenth century were a violent period in China's history marked by humiliating foreign incursions and domestic rebellion, ultimately ending in the demise of the Ch'ing dynasty. The only constant during this tumultuous time was the power wielded by one person, the resilient, ever-resourceful Tzu Hsi, Lady Yehonala -- or Empress Orchid, as readers came to know her in Anchee Min's critically acclaimed novel covering the first part of her life.<br> <br> The Last Empress is the story of Orchid's dramatic transition from a strong-willed, instinctive young woman to a wise and politically savvy leader who ruled China for more than four decades. Moving from the intimacy of the concubine quarters into the spotlight of the world stage, Orchid must face not only the perilous condition of her empire but also a series of devastating personal losses, as first her son and then her adopted son succumb to early death. Yearning only to step aside, and yet growing constantly into her role, only she--allied with the progressives, but loyal to the conservative Manchu clan of her dynasty--can hold the nation's rival factions together.<br> <br> Anchee Min offers a powerful revisionist portrait based on extensive research of one of the most important figures in Chinese history. Viciously maligned by the western press of the time as the "Dragon Lady," a manipulative, blood-thirsty woman who held onto power at all costs, the woman Min gives us is a compelling, very human leader who assumed power reluctantly, and who sacrificed all she had to protect those she loved and an empire that was doomed to die.
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