Author: Alexandra Curry
Title: The Courtesan
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Published: September 8th 2015)
Where I Got It: My Shelf (Given to me by the author/publisher for my honest and unbiased opinion)
The year is 1881. Seven-year-old Jinhua is left an orphan, alone and unprotected after her mandarin father’s summary execution for the crime of speaking the truth. For seven silver coins, she is sold to a brothel-keeper and subjected to the worst of human nature. Will the private ritual that is her father’s legacy and the wise friendship of the crippled brothel maid be enough to sustain her?
When an elegant but troubled scholar takes Jinhua as his concubine, she enters the close world of his jealous first wife. Yet it is Jinhua who accompanies him—as emissary to the foreign devil nations of Prussia, Austria-Hungary, and Russia—on an exotic journey to Vienna. As he struggles to play his part in China's early, blundering diplomatic engagement with the Western world, Jinhua’s eyes and heart are opened to the irresistible possibilities of a place that is mesmerizing and strange, where she will struggle against the constraints of tradition and her husband’s authority and seek to find “Great Love.”
I have heard of Jinhua in the past, but I admit I know pretty much nothing about her or her journeys. She was orphaned, became a courtesan, and then a legend. Unlike many Chinese women of the day, she was able to travel and learn about the world. She learned so much in her travels. She grew to love the Western world and brought that love back to China. However, as we all know, the Boxer Rebellion starts as she comes back.
The beginning was rough to get in. It started dark and it was hard to read. Poor little orphan. Her parents are killed and she is sold to a whore house at a very young age. It took a while for me to become immersed in the story. Very dark. But it certainly got better as hope was brought to life and Jinhua began growing to the woman she was supposed to be. I was utterly hooked from there.
I go back and forth on how I liked the multiple POVs. Some were okay, but some annoyed me and I skimmed them. I would have preferred just Jinhua's and maybe a couple key ones like Suyin's or Madame Hong's. Some were essential, some were not. I think cutting some and extending others would have been a huge benefit to the story and made it flow a little better. Some of the POVs made the flow choppy.
Other than that, I enjoyed this story. It was dark, yes, but there was hope and I want to learn more about Jinhua. There is little ACTUAL knowledge about her since she was merely a woman and a Courtesan, but there is some.
In the end, I highly recommend this if you like historical fictions or just a good people story. The beginning was rough for me and some of the POVs were non-essential to me, but the rest of the story was addicting. I could hardly put this down! I shall stamp this with 4 stars.