Thursday, June 9, 2016

THE HOUSE OF WIVES by Simon Choa-Johnston

Two women compete for the affections of their opium merchant husband in a tale of friendship, fortune and rivalry in colonial Hong Kong.

  • eBook Size: 1230 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada
  • Publication Date: May 3, 2016

In 1862, a young Jew from Calcutta named Emanuel Belilios leaves his dutiful wife Semah and sets sail for Hong Kong to make his fortune in the opium trade. There, he grows into a prosperous and respectable merchant, eventually falling in love with his Chinese business partner's daughter Pearl, a delicate beauty twenty years his junior. As a wedding present, he builds for her the most magnificent mansion in Hong Kong. Then Semah arrives unannounced from Calcutta to take her place as mistress of the house...and life will change irrevocably for all of them. 
Inspired by the lives of Choa-Johnston's ancestors, The House of Wives is an unforgettable novel about the machinations of the early opium trade, and about two remarkable women determined to secure a dynasty for their children in the tumultuous British Crown colony.


A fascinating plot based on the author's own family lore - two women, one English, and the other Chinese, share one husband and live under the same roof. 
The author wrote the novel is such a way that the reader does not blame, but rather can sympathize with the husband and his two wives. Each of them is wonderfully portrayed with their own rational thoughts, choices, and feelings which lent credence to their plight. 

Beyond the family drama, the author did an exceptional job of relaying the historical details of the opium trade with all its intrigues, wealth, and associated crime. Life in Hong Kong during that era was also vibrantly recreated. Although the pacing sometimes slowed, the entire novel was beautifully written with a gentle and easy to read prose. I very much enjoyed reading the author's personal notes at the end of the book which described his own family history.  

This book would initiate very interesting discussions for book groups. For fans of historical fiction who want an exotic setting weaved into an intricate plot, then this is the book to read. Truly fascinating from start to finish.

y unique and different solution to his multiple wife issue which was quite different than how others had handled similar situations during that time and makes for a very unique story. Choa-Johnston's writing was quite descriptive in regards to the era and cultures and I appreciated that he included a description of his family history at the back of the book to give his readers more background information. Overall, this was a good read. It was an interesting look at different cultures, the author's unique family history and the power and strength of women.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Penguin Group - Random House Publishing for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thank you to Penguin Group - Random House Publishig for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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