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The Last Empress: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

The last decades of the nineteenth century were a violent period in China’s history, marked by humiliating foreign incursions and domestic rebellions and ending in the demise of the Ch’ing Dynasty. The only constant during this tumultuous time was the power wielded by one woman, the resilient, ever-resourceful Tsu Hsi -- or Empress Orchid, as readers came to know her in Anchee Min’s critically acclaimed, best-selling novel covering her rise to ...
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The Last Empress: A Novel

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Overview

The last decades of the nineteenth century were a violent period in China’s history, marked by humiliating foreign incursions and domestic rebellions and ending in the demise of the Ch’ing Dynasty. The only constant during this tumultuous time was the power wielded by one woman, the resilient, ever-resourceful Tsu Hsi -- or Empress Orchid, as readers came to know her in Anchee Min’s critically acclaimed, best-selling novel covering her rise to power.

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. In this concluding volume Min gives us a compelling, very human leader who assumed power reluctantly and sacrificed all to protect those she loved and an empire that was doomed to die.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Min's Empress Orchidtracked 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.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Three years after the publication of Min's best-selling Empress Orchidcomes the sequel to the life of Lady Yehonala, a.k.a. the Dowager Empress, or the last empress of China. Min picks up Orchid's story from the time of her mother's death and takes readers through the empress's own death in 1908. Departing from the stereotype of Orchid as the "dragon lady" empress, Min uses first-person narration to portray her as a caring mother to Emperor Tung Chih and her nephew, Emperor Guang-hsu. The softness of Orchid's persona is revealed in her relations with her eunuchs, An-te-hai and Li-Lien-ying, while her strength is played out in the politics of the period and in her ability to survive the hardships of the Boxer Rebellion. As seen in the author's previous works (e.g., Becoming Madame Mao), Min consistently blends meticulous historical research with firsthand knowledge of Chinese culture and the female perspective to bring to readers a unique look at women in Chinese history. Essential for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/06.]
—Shirley N. Quan
Kirkus Reviews
In this sequel to her historical novel Empress Orchid (2004), Min tells the story of late-19th-century China's crumbling empire, from the point of view of the country's much-vilified final empress. Two years after the death of Orchid's husband, she and his "first wife," Nuharoo, are sharing the upbringing of the new Emperor, Orchid's seven-year-old son Tung Chih, and acting as ruling co-regents until he grows up. Orchid is overseeing a nation heavily in debt and slowly losing control of its provinces to western nations and Japan. Orchid is selflessly devoted to governing China. She does not allow herself a relationship with the one man she genuinely loves, focusing instead on preparing Tung Chih for his responsibilities with a single-mindedness that undermines the typical mother-son relationship. When Tung Chih, who hates his duties, dies in his 20s of a venereal disease, Orchid adopts her sister's three-year-old son Guang-hsu and makes him emperor. Although Orchid loves Guang-hsu, her sense of political responsibility again overrides maternal feelings. The sensitive, sweet little boy grows into an indecisive, insecure ruler. Although recognizing the mistakes Guang-hsu and his advisors are making, Orchid often goes along in order to keep his sense of authority intact. By the time of the Boxer Rebellion, she has lost control over her ministers, even while she is being vilified in the Western press as the "Dragon Lady." She wants reform and feels camaraderie with Robert Hart, who keeps China financially afloat for decades. But most of all, she wants to keep China unified, a goal that proves impossible. The great swatches of historical detail will enlighten readers who generally view historyfrom a Western perspective, but with Orchid so busy explaining herself, the human story of a woman who denies her instincts never quite emerges.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547346908
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/7/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 290,327
  • File size: 298 KB

Meet the Author

Anchee Min
Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao’s Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She came to the United States in 1984 with the help of actress Joan Chen. Her memoir, Red Azalea, was named one of the New York Times Notable Books of 1994 and was an international bestseller, with rights sold in twenty countries. Her novels Becoming Madame Mao and Empress Orchid were published to critical acclaim and were national bestsellers. Her two other novels, Katherine and Wild Ginger, were published to wonderful reviews and impressive foreign sales.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Historically Accurate

    This book takes you through the life of the last empress orchid. It is actually a sequal to the book Empress Orchid. I read this book first I plan on reading the first one though. It is very accurate I looked up Emrpess Tzu Hsi (empress orchid) and she did exist and EVERYTHING that happend in the book was accurate it matched up with everything I looked up about this empress online. It is very interesting it is a great read if your a history fanatic especailly if your into ancient chinese history. Make sure you dont make the same mistake I did tho, read the book Empress Orchid first then this one, this is a sequel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2012

    I found it hard to get into this book. I read Empress Orchid fir

    I found it hard to get into this book. I read Empress Orchid first and I like that book a whole lot more. My mind kept wandering while I was reading this. I almost felt like I was reading a history text book.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    a nineteenth century story in china

    the last empress was a very interesting story as well as the hero, Empress Dowager Cixi (later known as Empress Orchid). it takes place in china during the 19th century as the the Ch'ing Dynasty was comin to an end. it begins by tellin about the loss of her mother. she later encounters another number of great losses (her son tung chih, her husband & later her nephew just 2 name a few). orchid had a servant/eunuch, An-te-hai, who was very true 2 her (and brave i mite add). i was sad when his life came 2 an end & can understand why orchid cried bout his loss & why she cared so much 4 him (i would have 2). her next servant (at the moment i cant recall his name) was just as kind 2 her but cant compare 2 An-te-hai who i felt thru out the book could never be replaced. orchid seemed 2 b the real leader in this book. guang-hsu, her adopted son (who is also her nephew) went thru alot himself as a child. he was rescued by his aunt (orchid) & was chosen by her 2 become the next emperor & would go 2 her for alot of advice. the story continues tellin bout guang-hsu's life as well as hers. on 14 Nov, 1908 she encounters another loss & this is of her nephew & then the next day it is hers. i learned alot bout the history that took place & after readin this last empress i just had 2 go out & buy Empress Orchid.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    My thoughts

    It was an enjoyable read, though not as exciting as Empress Orchid. It holds less romance and emotion, with pleanty of historical facts/fill-ins. It was nice to see how the reign of Empress Orchid comes to a close. Anchee Min's style of writing (as always) was wonderful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I am history lover, especially my Chinese history, I can learn a lot...

    I have read the book "Empress Orchid" which I liked so much, that is why I broght this bood. Cause I could stop to want know what's next...I think I like that one better, this one is kind depressing...:)).

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good Book

    As someone has mentioned here that this book is not in accordance with historic events I wouldn't know that, because I know practically nothing about China, its history and culture. But I thought that the book was one of the best I've read in a while. While reading it I could emagine the palace (or at least how I saw it), the events that when on.... The language was good: not too simply and not too hard to read....<BR/>Otherwise, if I knew more about China I would probably critisize the book much more (that's what i do with the French history novels....lol)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2009

    Highly Glorified and not realistic....tries to hard to make Empress seem innocent

    This book first of all is a highly glorified attempt to paint the Empress Orchid=Cixi in a favorable light making excuses for her crimes in history or covering them up. I would not by far count this as realistic in any way. It has been proven now that the Emperor Guang-Xsu was poisoned with arsenic by Empress Cixi, that she forced him into a marriage he did not like, and that she had drowned the woman he did love.In the book this woman sas "i'm going to committ suicie" and goes and jumps in a well...umm yeah not according to history! In the book all of this is glazed over ...it is so unrealistic. Another thing is Empress Cian or Neharoo was a well love Empress who was poisoned by Cixi so she could take over full power behind the empire. In the book Anchee minn paints EMpress Cian as an idiot/air head who has no clue over politics and she dies of the flu. Sorry Anchee Minn you can't distort history in order to make your main character appealing and have a happy ending. I would not recommend this hogwash...!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2007

    Must read book for all women!!

    Thank you Anchee Min for your beautifully written books. They are sensitive, compassionate, detailed and very historical. You have opened new information and insights to the world and have become very valuable. My name is Kyoko Yamanouchi born in Peking, China. When my family ran from Mao to Korea to catch boat back to Japan, they left with nothing but one scroll painted by the Last Empress.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 21, 2011

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    Posted October 13, 2008

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