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My Last Empress

2.56 of 5 stars 2.56  ·  rating details  ·  133 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A sweeping story of passion and obsession, set against the upheavals of 19th-century imperial China, by the New York Times bestselling author Da Chen

When Samuel Pickens’ great love tragically loses her life, Samuel travels the globe, Annabelle always on his mind. Eventually, he comes face to face with the mirror image of his obsession in the last place he would expect, and
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Crown (first published January 1st 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 623)
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Melissa McCauley
I always find it hard to read books with a protagonist I don’t particularly like. Samuel Pickens is perverted and obsessed with Anabelle, who seems more like a homage to the literary nymphets who have gone before her than a real person. Of course, the story is told in first person by Samuel himself, who is molesting mannequins while fantasizing about Annabelle’s ghost – like Humbert Humbert’s Dolores she is not a real person to him.

Snark Alert: I kept feeling like I had read this book before, r
Joel Kirk
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rainie Kirkevold
Oh how I want to love this book... Da Chen weaves a complex, delicious, dark tale like few others. He has excellent character development and uses symbolism beautifully. I devoured the book in one day. So this is when I want to give it 5 stars and 1 star at the same time...The perverse story line, unlikable characters and weak ending, left me fairly disappointed. I felt like the whole time you are on this epic journey, waiting for all the pieces to fall together, or at least come to an ending of ...more
Nicki Markus
This is a book that has a rather unlikeable 'hero' and yet it is still entrancing and captivating.

Pickens is a character that I guess you can love to hate. Some of his choices and his views make me shudder, but his story is an interesting one that kept me turning the pages despite my dislike of him.

What really made this book for me, though, is the prose. It is utterly beautiful and poetic: a joy to read. I loved Chen's descriptions; the way he set the scene and painted a portrait of the charact
Cyd Madsen
Da Chen is a wizard of words -- hypnotic. The tension in this book is unrelenting, the eroticism beyond endurance and overwhelming without ever slipping into the vulgar or mundane. The sensitivity to language and craftsmanship of this book are both staggering and held me in their grip from the first sentence until the last.

In all of Da Chen's books it is love that elevates every element of story and holds it above every standard ever set. In his memoirs of life in China, the reader is deeply to
I enjoy reading books on China, both fiction and nonfiction. So when I saw this at the library I thought I got lucky. When I started reading, well not so much.

It starts out with an American, Samuel Pickens whose love interest (Annabelle) tragically dies in a fire. Annabelle lived in China, daughter of a missionary, and thus begins Pickens obsession with China and Annabelle. He goes to China in search of her. She has become more than an obsession, she has become a ghost that lives with him.

So t
Ugh, so tough to rate this. Amazing writing, interesting story, one of my favorite settings (Imperial China) but seriously? It's borderline pedophilia. Just imagine Lolita as a Chinese Empress, add in some ghosts, very flowery language, and viola! At times I was too grossed out to enjoy this, even if it is by an author that I really liked (his Brothers is so super good).
Melinda Hammontree
I'm not normally a prude, but this book was way too much sex for me. Death by sex, ghostly sex, anal sex, rough and bloody sex. You probably get the idea. The protagonist is a weak, whiny guy (except when having sex) who never really develops. I kept reading because I expected it to get better; it didn't.
The main protagonist leaves you confused - one minute you despise him, the next you sympathize with him and actually start to become fond of him and the ebb and flow continues. A motley character best describes Pickins.

The composition is unique and complex. The melodious prose captivates your attention and is a sheer pleasure to read.

The magically written prose and the
convoluted protagonist give the novel a captivating edge.

I suggest this book for its poetic prose and inviting story line.

Chris Craddock
Color Me Empressed

My Last Empress by Da Chen is an historical fiction novel that takes place mainly in China during the final years of the 19th Century. The protagonist bears some similarity to the character Peter O'Toole played in The Last Emperor, the Royal Tutor from a land beyond the ocean--but the book is from an earlier era, and focuses on the royal tutor and his obsession with Annabelle, a missionary's daughter, her ghost, and Annabelle's daughter, who is the titular fourth Empress of the
Cynthia Mcarthur
Mentally-disturbed. Over-sexed. Selfish and self-loathing. Meet our hero, Samuel Pickens,son of an up-right and prosperous turn of the century New England lawyer. Expected to follow in his father's oppresive and repressed footsteps, he meets the beautiful and fresh young Annabelle after his first tawdry affair with an older woman and his life begins to revolve around her. Even after her tragic death, her flitting butterfly spirit guides him in his every move, from finishing school, through his f ...more
Historical fiction famously being neither history nor fiction, Da Chen nonetheless combines both in a pornographic entertainment. The history derives from Da Chen's inspiration, a statue at Yale of an unfortunate alumnus who died in China during the reign of the Dowager Empress. Da Chen mines traditional Chinese sex literature, courtly abuses of power by the Empress and her eunuchs prior to the Boxer Rebellion and the Opium Wars, tribal skirmishes during the nineteenth century in China and Ameri ...more
Margaret Sankey
Samuel Pickens, New England WASP aimless heir becomes obsessed with Annabelle, a woman he hardly knows, after she dies smoking opium with him in a New Haven barn. He then spends the rest of his life scheming to get to China and then crashing around looking for her reincarnation, totally sure that the coincidences that have allowed him to do this are Romantic Fate and entitle him to pursue any end. As a tutor to the young puppet emperor, he transfers his obsession to the Fourth Empress, a young h ...more
Sarah H
I just felt like it dragged on at some points, and the obsession the main character had was a little too disturbing for me at points. I also felt like I couldn't really connect with the characters at all, and I wish there was more character building and more able to learn more about them, other than the protagonist of course. I would definitely be interested to learn a little more about Q.
Could not get past first four chapters. Begins with explanation of his lost virginity with an older woman and continues with the interactions with his dead girlfriend.
Wanted to like it more. I love books like this. From the western part of the world. I love the traditions, the realities of life. Samuel was a well thought out character. But he angered me at times. He seemed a bit oversexed. Bleck. Also, I was waiting for everything to come together, to tie together and say, yes that is an ending. Nothing.

Samuel searches the world for the woman he loved and lost tragically. But his journey is really a bit much for this reader. I didn't enjoy it very much. I did
Tried several times. Just could not get into this book.
☔Diane S.
I find it difficult to write a review on a novel that I have mixed feelings about. First this is really not my kind of genre, historical yes in the sense that it takes place in the Forbidden City in the Orient, but also very sexual and obsessive as well. The prose is beautiful, if at times almost over the top, and it is this that kept me reading. The main character is very self obsessed, very unlikable and his obsession with his dead love was extreme. Definitely a different type of book but this ...more
Just got weirder, and weirder, and the end really disturbed me. Finished it, but not something that I would read again.
I very much liked some of the descriptive passages, especially those of the life inside the Forbidden City, the intrigues and corruption among the eunuchs, and the lavish, doomed life style. The man can write wonderfully.

What I did not love was the plot and the characters - what several people have termed, aptly I think, a conflation of Lolita and The Last Emperor. Pickens' sexual obsession got downright creepy, and his lust objects, Annabelle and her daughter/surrogate Qiu Rong, were impossible
My Last Empress is a very weird book. It's true that I like weird books, but I actually didn't enjoy this one. The writing is beautiful but the sex scenes are hokey - like a romance novel. Da Chen obviously (and shamelessly) borrowed from Nabokov, calling his heroine a nymphet countless times. I didn't appreciate that. I didn't buy the love story. Would not recommend.
A compelling but rather odd read. Detailed icky factual stuff combined with a fairly good and readable story.

I find my self puzzled. Not enough to lower the score, but too much to hardily recommend to those with limited reading time. Perhaps if you have a fetish about Eunuchs or a strong interest in ancient Chinese politics?
The author of this book is rather hard to relate to or like. The author seems to try very hard to incorporate Chinese culture into the story, but certain parts of the book just seem like they don't belong. Certain superstitions are inserted and they aren't well set up in the story. The ending is quite abrupt and also a bit unrealistic.
Dec 07, 2012 Ashley added it
Shelves: abandoned
I found this book a little odd. At first it was okay but then I got uninterested and a little lost. The author didnt keep me hooked I sort of drifted off.
Renee Burcham
I cannot believe I actually got through this book. STUPID!!!! The ONLY reason I read it was because it was about China. This book was a total waste of my time.
El Espada
Just ride the waves to the waterfall and stare death in its eyes and you will survive this journey on the author's skilled navigation alone.
Sheillagh Dare
Heard Joe Donohue interview this amazing author, Da Chen. Can't wait to read his new book. Will add review after I read it.
poetic, creative and brilliant...use of language, weaving of narrative, sense of humour...I thought it was brilliant
Liz Neale
It was an okay book. Just couldn't seem to really get into it.
The author should have written something else. This is trash.
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Read It Forward: * MY LAST EMPRESS by Da Chen 2 17 Oct 19, 2012 05:55AM  
  • The Red Chamber
  • Beautiful Assassin
  • The Flowers of War
  • Saiyuki Reload, Volume 5
  • Heaven Lake
  • The Ginseng Hunter
  • The Listener: A Novel
  • Village of Stone
  • The Celestials
  • The Snow Fox
  • The Court of the Lion: A Novel of the T'ang Dynasty (T'ang Trilogy, #3)
  • Butterfly Swords (Tang Dynasty, #1)
  • Wallet of Kai Lung (Kai Lung #1)
  • Here Is Greenwood: Volume 1
  • Terminator and Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am
  • Memories of My Ghost Brother
  • I Thought You Were Dead
  • Crystal Boys
Colors of the Mountain Brothers Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution Sword

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