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?
BOXERS AND BULLETS - At the end of the nineteenth century, the Beijing region was troubled by the “Boxers” - nationalist fighters who wanted to kick out the westerners and kill the Christian converts. They practiced a form of mystical martial arts that they said protected them even from bullets - a claim that proved to be incorrect.


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