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In 1903, a young Scotswoman named Mary Mackenzie sets sail for China to marry her betrothed, a military attaché in Peking. But soon after her arrival, Mary falls into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman, scandalizing the British community. Casting her out of the European community, her compatriots tear her away from her small daughter. A woman abandoned and alone, Mary learns to survive over forty tumultuous years in Asia, including two world wars and the ...
In 1903, a young Scotswoman named Mary Mackenzie sets sail for China to marry her betrothed, a military attaché in Peking. But soon after her arrival, Mary falls into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman, scandalizing the British community. Casting her out of the European community, her compatriots tear her away from her small daughter. A woman abandoned and alone, Mary learns to survive over forty tumultuous years in Asia, including two world wars and the cataclysmic Tokyo earthquake of 1923.
This bittersweet story of love and betrayal in the Far East is the source of the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries.
January 9th, 1903
I was sick yesterday on my birthday, after not having been sick crossing the Bay of Biscay and even in the storm off Malta. It seems silly to have been sick in a little sea like the Red Sea, but when I did get to the deck at sunset, to escape from Mrs Carswell's groaning, the Second Officer came up beside me at the rail and said that I had been unwell because of the ground swell from Somalia. He said that many people who can stand up to all sorts of bumping and knocking about in storms are unable to stand up to a heavy ground swell. He is quite a nice man, though he must be thirty at least. He has very big hands. Too big. I did not tell anyone it was my birthday yesterday, not even Mrs Carswell. She was being sick, too, much worse than me.
The swells are like little hills on the move, completely smooth and grey. As we go up sideways on one of them you can see the others coming at us from the horizon. The sky is grey, too, and it does not seem able even to redden up for sunset. I am back in the cabin writing this, up in my berth above Mrs Carswell, who is still groaning. I would not have believed that anything could creak like this ship creaks. It is stifling in here. They have put tin things outside the portholes to catch the breeze, not even from the ship's movement.
I have decided right now that I must not send this notebook to Mama as I promised. Ever since Port Said I have found myself wanting to write down things that she must never see. I have heard that people change east of Suez and that could bewhat is happening to me. The day before yesterday, when I was beginning to feel not too well, I still wanted to eat curry and I have always hated curry. It is almost frightening, that you can travel in a ship and feel yourself changing.
It is not happening to everyone. Most of the passengers are too old to change. Nothing would ever change Mrs Carswell. I wish that, if I must have a chaperone, it did not have to be Mrs Carswell and we did not have to share a cabin.
I left off my new corset two days ago. Now I know I can never send this to Mama. Mrs Carswell has not found out yet since we dress and undress, at least mostly, behind our bunk curtains I just could not get into that corset up here in the heat under the roof, which is why I left it off first time. Then I smuggled it down while she was still sleeping and hid it away in my cabin trunk under the little sofa. Fortunately I have a small waist even without having it held in, and she has not noticed yet, but I will have to be careful. She has the sharpest eyes. They are like jet beads.
Mama would be horrified if she could read me writing like this. Perhaps I do it because there is no one I can talk to on this ship. In the First Class they are all old except the Prices, and Mrs Carswell says the Prices are not suitable. She calls them 'pushing' and thinks they ought to be travelling Second Class because all he is going out to is a position with the Singapore Water Board. Mrs Carswell says that in Singapore they will soon learn their place, because people in the Public Works Department are not acceptable socially. In Hong Kong Mr Carswell is a lawyer, which means that his wife can leave cards at Government House once a year and the Governor's Lady then leaves cards on her. Mrs Carswell is on the tea-party list. She says I will learn about these things in Peking.
In all the things they did for me before I came away no one told me anything about how not to have perspiration. If China is as hot as this, am I going to be damp for the rest of my life? I have used up all my eau de Cologne already and it only makes you feel cool for about five minutes. I cannot ask Mrs Carswell what she has done about perspiration all her years in hot countries. She must have done something? Perhaps not.
January 11th, 1903
We were right out in the Indian Ocean before the Captain spoke to me for the first time. I was about to go down from the top deck because of the coal smuts coming from the funnel when he came along from the bridge. He is a big man and very hairy, with the kind of beard that never seems to be trimmed, wisps coming out of it. He does not appear very sociable and I turned away so that he would not have to speak to me but he made a point of coming to the rail and asking if I had my sea legs again after the big swells. I said I had, then told him that I did not like the Indian Ocean very much, was it always this grey colour? He said we were passing through the tail of a monsoon and usually the sea was a wonderful blue. I have not seen any wonderful blues yet, not even in the Mediterranean which was grey, too, only a different kind of grey. This is a hot grey, with vapours off the water. The Captain said that from where we are now all the way to ice in Antarctica there is nothing but sea, four thousand miles of it. He trained in sailing ships on the Australian grain run and they used to go through the Roaring Forties which are just...The Ginger Tree. Copyright © by Oswald Wynd. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted February 20, 2015
Posted January 2, 2011
I came on to replace my copy of this book, which I have kept in my permanent library since I first read it some years ago. It is simply my favorite book. I wanted to loan it to someone and it has once again wandered to someone else's bookshelf. Alas, I must reorder! In addition to sweeping historical context, you simply will not believe that this fully developed and nuanced female protagonist was written by a man. The other characters are equally complex in their motivations.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 23, 2006
I read this book when I was a teenager about fifteen years ago and this book still stands out in my memory as a great novel. It was spellbinding I want to read it again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 14, 2002
Historically and romantically absorbing, just plain delightful. Loved everything about it. Having been to Scotland, Japan and China, found the authors travels very interesting and insightful regarding the differences in cultures. Mary was a very unusual women for her time, I think. Really marched to her own drum, once she got going.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2001
This book has everything, forbidden romance, mystery, a sweeping panorama of history, exotic backgrounds, a strong female protagonist, and good sex. It also happens to be very factual as well as being well-written. I've read it and re-read it and enjoyed it immensely every time. Especially if you are interested in Japan, Japanese culture, or 20th century Japanese history, I strongly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 28, 2000
This book touched my heart. What a love story! I couldn't put it down once I started reading it even though the storyline got off to a slow start. It spanned a lifetime and I aged - and matured - with the heroine through the stages of her life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 27, 2008
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Posted September 2, 2009
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