An electrifying epic, based on the incredible true story of a Chinese princess turned spy.
Peking, 1914. When the eight-year-old princess Eastern Jewel is caught spying on her father’s liaison with a servant girl, she is banished from the palace, sent to live with a powerful family in Japan. Renamed Yoshiko Kawashima, she quickly falls in love with her adoptive country, where she earns a scandalous reputation, taking fencing lessons, smoking opium, and entertaining numerous lovers. Sent to Mongolia to become an obedient wife, Yoshiko mounts a daring escape and eventually finds her way back to Peking high society—this time with orders from the Japanese secret service.
Based on the true story of a rebellious woman who earned a controversial place in history, The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel is a vibrant reimagining of a thrilling life—a rich historical epic of palace intrigue, sexual manipulation, and international espionage.
I won this book through a giveaway on GoodReads which I entered because I thought the book looked intriguing. After perusing some reviews and ratings, I wasn’t sure that I would love it, but I decided it deserved a fair chance anyways. Once I started reading the first chapter, I had kind of a hard time getting into this book. Lindley’s writing is primarily description and while I thought it had some lovely moments, I also find that unless I fall in love with the writing, I have a hard time getting into books that are written in this time (another example of this is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift). I think she wanted to make the reader feel like he or she was right there at the setting, and in some passages she succeeded. However, I felt that at times Lindley was just telling me what was going on, instead of really showing me.
About 50 pages in I finally felt a bit more drawn into the story. By the time I put this book down, I felt more like I’d read series of vignettes than a novel with a really strong plot. I think Lindley was a bit too slow in setting it in motion. One of her strong suits was making her readers feel sympathetic towards Eastern Jewel. Even though she perpetuated habits which I didn’t perceive as particularly productive, I still pitied her because Lindley helped the reader understand why this might be the case by providing background information about Eastern Jewel’s childhood.
I’d also like to make a quick note in here and say that this book has a pretty decent amount of detailed sex scenes. While I don’t mind this as a reader, some of them are rather grim, and I wanted to mention it because I realize that some readers are very deterred by such content. As I kept reading the story, I got confused by all of the character names because there were so many, but I could have made it easier on myself and written them down.
Overall, I think The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel is an interesting read and that it definitely has some strong suits. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite leave this book feeling fully satisfied or drawn in. Your opinion, however, might be different than mine, so check it out if it sounds interesting to you.
Disclosure: I won a copy of this book through a giveaway on GoodReads.