China

My new novel CHINA will be published in May, 2021.

This seventy-year family saga starts in the nineteenth century, during the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Through the human stories of British, American and Chinese families, the novel tells the sweeping and dramatic tale of how the West met the exotic Empire of China and humiliated her. The history it relates led directly to the tragic events of the twentieth century and the attitude of China towards the rest of the world today.

Nineteenth Century China was a proud and ancient empire, ruled by the Manchu and forbidden to foreigners. The West, and Britain in particular, had an unquenchable appetite for Chinese tea, but lacked the silver to buy it. So western merchant adventurers resorted to smuggling in opium in exchange. The Chinese Emperor, determined to prevent his people from sinking into addiction, sent the incorruptible Viceroy Lin to Canton, the main hub of the opium trade, to stop it. The British sent gun boats, and the Opium Wars began - heralding a period of bloody military defeats, reparations, and one-sided treaties which became known in China as the Century of Humiliation.

From Hong Kong to Beijing to the Great Wall, from the exotic wonders of the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, to squalid village huts, the dramatic struggle rages across the Celestial Kingdom. This is the story of the Chinese people, high and low, and the Westerners who came to exploit the riches of their ancient land and culture.

We meet a young village wife struggling with the rigid traditions of her people, Manchu empresses and warriors, powerful eunuchs, fanatical Taiping and Boxer Rebels, savvy Chinese pirates, artists, concubines, scoundrels and heroes, well-intentioned missionaries and the rapacious merchants, diplomats and soldiers of the West.

I have tried to tell the tale of this mighty clash of world views, of mutual misunderstanding, of fortunes gained, battles fought and love lost, as humanly and honestly as I can, as seen from both sides of the divide. I found myself fascinated, made wiser and often moved, and I hope that you may be too.

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Did You Know?
After World War I, a movement began to commemorate unknown fallen soldiers with a single tomb. On November 11, 1920, two years following the Armistice that ended the war, both France and the UK buried the remains of soldiers whose bodies couldn’t be identified. The British soldier was chosen from one of four who’d been exhumed from different battlefields in France, and transported back to England. This Unknown Warrior is to be found at Westminster Abbey in London. The French Unknown Soldier lies at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In 1921, a similar monument was set up at the Arlington National Cemetery in the US. There are similar tombs in 58 countries at last count.
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