Monday 30 May 2022

Rutherfurd, Edward "China"

Rutherfurd, Edward "China" - 2021

I was really looking forward to this book that I received for Christmas (thanks, Zach) because I love anything written by Edward Rutherfurd. And I was not disappointed. He delivered what he promised with his other books.

There is only a slight change. In most of his books, he tells stories of families over throughout the centuries, often starting way before our calendar. This one starts in 1839 and ends in the early 1900s, long enough to see the lifetime of all the protagonists. And that is the only criticism I have about this book. I would have liked a list at the end or the beginning about all the different characters, as he has done in all his former historic novels. That way you know where you are in history. Granted, this spans not even a century but the Chinese names make it a little more difficult to remember who is who, especially since sometimes there are several others who tell their story before we return to a certain one. It was still alright to remember who was who but it would have been easier otherwise.

As in all his other books, we learn a lot about China's history. I have read many books about it but this one is very detailed and gives us so much information about the opium wars and the rebellions that more or less formed the new China, and when we complain about something the Chinese are doing today, our countries were responsible for a lot of it. Not mine in this case but we have enough other skeletons in our closet, so I won't even go further into who was there and who wasn't.

I can understand that Edward Rutherfurd didn't want to go through all of China's history, it is so vast and the country is so huge, the book would have been a lot longer than the 784 pages of my edition. I think concentrating on this part was an excellent idea because many of us know our history from that time and can compare.

I wouldn't say I prefer this way of writing the story of a country to the other one, I probably still like the whole story better, but there is so much to learn from this book, I can only highly recommend it. Reading his books is better than any history lesson I remember from school.

I do hope, he'll write many, many more.

From the back cover:

"China in the Nineteenth Century is a proud and ancient empire forbidden to foreigners. Western merchants desires Chinese tea above all other things and resort to smuggling opium in exchange.
The Qing Emperor will not allow this trade to continue. The Opium Wars begin - heralding a period of bloody military defeats, reparations, and one-sided treaties which will become known 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 great clash between East and West rages across the Celestial Kingdom. 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. Fortunes will rise and fall, loves will be gained and lost.

China is a feat of the imagination that will enthrall, instruct and excite, and show us how the turmoil of the nineteenth century led to modern China’s revolution and rebirth."

Find a link to all my reviews on his other novels here.

I have been told by a lot of people that Edward Rutherfurd writes like James Michener. If anyone here has read books by both of them, would you agree? And which book by Michener should I start with?


  1. Sounds cool. I'm interested in his works but the only thing putting me off (slightly at least) is the length and the investment in time of reading them. This one would take me at least a week or longer to finish. [muses]

    1. Probably, if you read only one book at the time. I always read several, so I never know how long it really takes me. And I am probably better off not knowing, right, Kitten?

  2. He is great. I have not read this one. I have two of this books on my shelves, and they have been there for years; Sarum and Russka. Should get to reading them soon.

    1. Oh, they are both beautiful, Lisbeth. Having said that, I wouldn't know which one to choose if I had to name my favourite. Enjoy.

  3. I've had this on my list for a while. It's such a commitment to dive into a Rutherfurd book. Thanks for this review -- I think it will push me forward to reading it. And now, I know that I'll want to make a list of characters as I go along.

    1. Oh great, Joy. Yes, his books look quite daunting but once you're in them, it doesn't feel that way anymore. And I always try to make lists when reading a larger book, unless there is one in there.
      Have a great Sunday.