The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry is the story of Jinhua, a work of historic fiction that may, or may not, give a picture of the life of this resilient woman. Either way, it is a compelling story that will keep you turning pages and give a view of China in the late 1800’s. Jinhau was sold into a brothel as a child, her feet bound, then given to men for profit in the house of ill repute ran by a harsh woman able to impose cruel punishments. Her only comfort, the serving girl Suyin who becomes like a sister to her. Sub-chancellor Hong rescues Jinhua from life as a "money tree" at the brothel, making her his concubine. China is in a turbulent peri-od, resenting the foreigners who have been nibbling away at the empire, the Empress Cixi sends Hong to Europe to observe the foreign devils and learn to understand them. Hong finds Europe overwhelming, it is so totally different from China in every cultural way. Jinhau finds it enlivening and fascinating, she is smitten by the handsome Count Alfred von Waldersee. Retuning to China, her fortunes change again. She will be in Beijing as emotions continue to rise against the foreign devils and those who are sympathetic to them culminating in the Boxer Rebellion. Curry weaves in a blend of history and story. Jinhua is famous in China, the subject of films and operas.— Deon Stonehouse
A timeless novel of one woman who bridged two worlds in a tumultuous era of East meets West
The Courtesanis an astonishing tale inspired by the real life of a woman wholived and loved in the extraordinary twilight decades of the Qing dynasty. To this day, Sai Jinhua is a legend in her native land of China, and this is her story, told the way it might have been.
The year is 1881. Seven-year-old Jinhua is left an orphan, alone and unprotected after her mandarin father's summary execution for the crime of speaking the truth. For seven silver coins, she is sold to a brothel-keeper and subjected to the worst of human nature. Will the private ritual that is her father's legacy and the wise friendship of the crippled brothel maid be enough to sustain her?
When an elegant but troubled scholar takes Jinhua as his concubine, she enters the close world of his jealous first wife. Yet it is Jinhua who accompanies him--as Emissary to the foreign devil nations of Prussia, Austro-Hungary, and Russia--on an exotic journey to Vienna. As he struggles to play his part in China's early, blundering diplomatic engagement with the western world, Jinhua's eyes and heart are opened to the irresistible possibilities of a place that is mesmerizing and strange, whereshe will struggle against the constraints of tradition and her husband's authority and seek to find Great Love.
Sai Jinhua is an altered woman when she returns to a changed and changing China, where a dangerousclash of cultures pits East against West. The moment arrives when Jinhua's western sympathies will threaten not only her own survival, but the survival of those who are most dear to her.
A book that shines a small light on the large history of China's relationship with the West, The Courtesanis a novel that distills, with the economy of a poem, a woman's journey of untold miles to discern what is real and abiding.
About the Author
Alexandra Gambrill Curry, Canadian-born of Austrian and British parentage, has spent happy years living in Asia, Europe, Canada, and the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College, she now lives in Atlanta. The Courtesan is her first novel.