Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse
These are excerpts from the review—
When we last saw our hero, or should we say, our Hart, 19th century China was being raped, ravaged and rebelled against from every direction. South China has been taken over by European merchants determined to turn the entire country into one big opium den, British military patrolling the Eastern shore are forcing the emperor to pay reparations “for wars China lost but didn’t start,” whilst Christian fanatics called Taiping are waging bloody hell against imperialism.
Enter a broken, distraught man who has just witnessed the rape and murder of one of his two beloved concubines. It is no secret who the perpetrator is, but instead of having the means or status to avenge his love, Robert Hart must “swallow his hate” and go into hiding with his remaining concubine, Ayaou, for as it turns out, it was she who was his nemesis’s intended victim. Some hero!
From dealing with the bedroom complexities that came with having two competing concubines, to dealing with the political complexities of competing imperial officials; from the weight of a pubescent concubine in Robert Hart’s arms to the weight of an ancient empire on his shoulders, the story of ‘Our Hart’ is divided by romantic drama and political intrigue as the protagonist himself is divided by his allegiance to both China and England.
Lofthouse gets down and dirty with gritty, old-fashioned storytelling, proletariat-style, but where author Lofthouse truly shines is his thought-provoking messages on relationships, attitudes and cultures.