The Last Empress: A Novel

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“Admirers of Empress Orchid will be interested in this sequel. Others may find the introduction to relatively modern Chinese history a revelation” (Rocky Mountain News).
 
During the tumultuous end of the nineteenth century in China, the only constant was the power wielded by one person: the resilient, ever-resourceful Tzu Hsi, Lady Yehonala—or Empress Orchid—as readers came to know her in Anchee Min’s critically acclaimed novel covering the first part of her life.
 
In The Last Empress, Orchid moves from the intimacy of the concubine quarters into the spotlight of the world stage. Devastating personal losses take their toll, leaving her yearning to step aside, but only she—allied with the progressives, but loyal to the conservative Manchu clan of her dynasty—can hold the nation’s rival factions together.
 
Anchee Min offers a powerful revisionist portrait based on extensive research of one of the most important figures in Chinese history. Viciously maligned by the western press of the time as the “Dragon Lady,” a manipulative, blood-thirsty woman who held onto power at all costs, the woman Min gives us is a compelling, very human leader who assumed power reluctantly, and who sacrificed all she had to protect those she loved and an empire that was doomed to die.
 
“The vision of an empress who very nearly had it all: vulnerability and strength, motherhood and power, earthiness and dignity, compassion and ambition.” —The Washington Post
 
“Invokes the intrigue and opulence of nineteenth-century China while telling the story of its improbably dominant ruler.” —Los Angeles Times
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About the author

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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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Apr 7, 2008
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Pages
321
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ISBN
9780547346908
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Historical / General
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Peony in Love.
From the national bestselling author of Red Azalea. “Extraordinary . . . Min lets [Madame Mao] be seen as never before. Bottom line: riveting” (People).
 
In a sweeping, erotically charged story, Anchee Min creates a finely nuanced portrait of one of the most fascinating, and vilified, women of the twentieth century.
 
Madame Mao is almost universally known as the “white-boned demon”—ambitious, vindictive, and cruel—whose bid to succeed her husband led to the death of millions. But Min’s story begins with a young girl named Yunhe, the unwanted daughter of a concubine who ignored her mother’s pleas and refused to have her feet bound. It was the first act of rebellion for this headstrong, beautiful, and charismatic girl, who would find fame as an actress in Shanghai, and later fall in love and marry Mao Zedong. The great revolutionary leader proved to be an inattentive husband with a voracious appetite for infidelity, but the couple stayed together through the Communist victory, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.
 
Min uses the facts of history and her lush, penetrating psychological imagination to take us beyond the myth of the person who so greatly influenced an entire generation of Chinese. The result is a complex portrait of a woman who railed against the confines of her culture, whose deep-seated insecurities propelled her to reinvent herself constantly, and whose ambition was matched only by her ferocious, never-to-be-fulfilled need to be loved.
 
“Sheer poetry.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“A magnificent book: consequential, significant, beautiful . . . the true heroine is writer Anchee Min.” —San Diego Union-Tribune
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