The Life of Legendary Chinese Courtesan Sai Jinhua Reimagined in The Courtesan

14 Aug

Sai Jinhua, a courtesan in the late Qing Dynasty, who lived through the Boxer Rebellion, and traveled in Europe with her diplomat husband – famous in Asia and now brought to life in a new novel by Alexandra Curry.
Sold to a brothel at the age of seven, when her mandarin father is executed by the Emperor, we experience her terror and resolute determination to survive.
I didn’t realize how large a historical character Jinhua is in China while I was reading, so some of the impact of re-imagining her as a warm and courageous woman, making the best out of the circumstances of her life, was lost on me.
Beautifully written, with a detailed sense of time and place, I appreciated The Courtesan for bringing to life a part of history that was previously unknown to me. I enjoyed reading it, notwithstanding the many traumatic events – the footbinding!! – sex slave at the age of 12!! – and was motivated to learn more about her and that time in history.


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