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In a breakout novel that transports the reader to a brilliantly imagined, sensuously portrayed, dangerous point in history, Kunal Basu has written the tale of a man's journey that spans continents--and the limits of his faith in science. Lisbon, 1898: Antonio Maria, surgeon and notorious playboy, returns home after a long absence to learn his beloved father has ...
In a breakout novel that transports the reader to a brilliantly imagined, sensuously portrayed, dangerous point in history, Kunal Basu has written the tale of a man's journey that spans continents--and the limits of his faith in science. Lisbon, 1898: Antonio Maria, surgeon and notorious playboy, returns home after a long absence to learn his beloved father has syphilis, the scourge of both rich and poor. Determined to find a cure, Antonio sets sail for Peking, to study under the evasive but renowned Dr. Xu. But Dr. Xu does not intend to give away his knowledge, and Antonio suddenly falls in love with his assistant, the elusive Fumi. The threat of the advancing Boxer rebellion hangs over the Summer Palace, and Antonio and Fumi must decide whether to flee together or remain in China.
Kunal Basu's lush, haunting tale invites comparisons to Michael Ondaatje's best work. This superb novel conjures a man discovering the love that will force him to question everything.
In 1898, Doctor Antonio Maria is one of Portugal's best doctors, but when his widowed father becomes desperately ill with syphilis Doctor Maria will do anything, go anywhere to find a cure to save his father's life. With reason to believe the Chinese have a cure, he leaves his fiancée behind and sails to China, devoting himself to learning medical secrets from a man named Xu. The trouble is that Doctor Maria must live in China for four seasons and learn the ways ofqibefore Xu will teach him what he wants to know. In the meantime he falls in love with Fumi, a mysterious woman with close ties to the Empress Dowager. Will he find the cure in time to return home and save his father? Or find it and return to Portugal before the West-hating Boxers kill him and all the other foreigners? Does Xu evenknowthe cure, or is he simply stringing Doctor Maria along for his own purposes? Can he meet the Empress and enlist her help? People are not who they seem as Doctor Maria immerses himself deeply in a strange and complex culture. Readers will get vicarious pleasure as he learns an array of sexual positions from Fumi. Occasional passages are briefly confusing as the narrative dips in and out of nightmares, but ultimately they help the story. For a man with an urgent mission, Doctor Maria seems incredibly patient, even distracted, as he navigates the ways of a world in which he is often the unwelcome outsider.
Many people suffer losses in this novel, a deeply satisfying tale mixing history, cultural clashes, violence and love. Fortunately, it's the readers who win.