The Ginger Tree
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The Ginger Tree

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,363 ratings  ·  219 reviews
A bestseller in England, this bittersweet story of love and betrayal in the Far East is the source of the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries.
Paperback, 294 pages
Published October 31st 1990 by Harper Perennial (first published 1977)
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Anne
This is a story of a young Scottish woman, Mary MacKenzie, who moves to China to get married in the early 1900s. She tells us her story through diary entries and letters. The writing carries us from event to event in her life in a rather robotic way: this happened and then this happened and so on. The writing was very affectless which made me feel very distant from Mary and unengaged in her story. This made for quite tedious reading. Several times I felt like putting down this book, but thought...more
Jeannette
Oct 17, 2013 Jeannette rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeannette by: chrissie
Rating: 4-1/2 stars

This book is the fictional first-person account, told through letters and journal entries, of Mary MacKenzie's experiences living in China and Japan. At the age of 20, she leaves her home in Scotland to marry her betrothed, a British military attache' stationed in Peking. What follows is the story of her life, with its many loves and losses, told over the next 30 years. The first thing that really pulled me into her story, was the very authentic voice the author uses for Mary....more
Chrissie
Sep 10, 2011 Chrissie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Maggyheintz Heintz
NO SPOILERS
Finished: Having completed the whole book I now feel it was simply amazing. Why? It never felt like fiction. Never. I have a hard time believing it is not based on some person the author knew...... Mary, who she was when she travelled to marry Richard and who she became living alone in the Orient, was perfectly rendered.

This is not a long book. Only the essentials are related, but that which is depicted is done with care and wonderful prose. That which the author has chosen to tell u...more
Kiwiflora
This novel was first published way back in 1977, and has been reprinted several times so must be a popular story! This book was given to me to read by an elderly couple, her Japanese and he European. They were married in Japan some 47 years ago, such a mixed marriage being unusual for those days. They suggested I read this because it gives a lot of insight into Japanese society from around 1900 to WWII. Things of course started to change in Japan after the war, but prior to that very little chan...more
Barbara
This has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for more than 10 years. I was attracted to it by the recommendations of others but put off by the fact that it is told in journal entries and some letters, which is generally not my favorite way to convey a story. However, in this case, I was pulled into Mary Mackenzie's world from the first few pages and stayed there. It's been a long time since I've read a book that kept calling me to sit down and read every moment but this one did just that...more
Anne
I wasn't sure how I would like this book as it takes the form of letters and diary/ journal entries but I was hooked from page 1. Mary carried me from Edinburgh to China and then Japan with her all the way. I am not sure how historically accurate it was but as a portrayal of how young married women were treated in the far east, it moved me. I was so good to read how she survived and grew.
My only criticism is that some times the time lapse were too large and I was left wondering about the missin...more
Laura
Sep 08, 2011 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jeannette, Gundula, Bettie, Wanda, Hayes
Recommended to Laura by: Chrissie
Just arrived from USA trough BM.

This is the story of a Scotswoman Mary MacKenzie who starts her saga by sailing in 1903 in order to get married to a military attache in Peking. However, she falls in love with a young Japanese nobleman and her adulterous case is very criticized by the British community in Peking. If you really want to know what happens next, you MUST read this book which is written as letters to her mother in Scotland.
Tamhack
This book covers quite of bit of early 19 century in the China/Japan from 1903 to 1942. It is written by a male Oswald Wynd but in a women's voice. He pulls much from his own background: His parents were from Scotland -the main protagonist, Mary Mackenzie; the author was born in 1913 in the foreigner's quarter of Tokoyo, Japan in 1913 while his father was working as a baptist missionary and spent most of his life in Japan--his protagonist spent most of her adult life in Japan and felt like it wa...more
Monthly Book Group
This very readable novel tells the story of Mary MacKenzie, taken from her genteel and strict upbringing in Edinburgh to no less strict societies in Japan and China, and how the life changing event of an extra-marital liaison leads to her eventual, partial integration and development in her chosen land. We learn about Eastern attitudes, ambitions and the foretold expansionism of Japan through her personal and diplomatic relationships with a number of strong and diverse characters in the diplomat...more
Tocotin
It's a story of a young girl from Edinburgh who goes to China shortly after the Taiping Rebellion to marry a British military attaché, then has an affair with a Japanese aristocrat, is ostracized by the fellow foreigners, loses this and that (don't want to make spoilers), goes to live in Japan, then leaves Japan in the middle of the Pacific War. The end.

It's enjoyable, I suppose, well written and all that, interesting details, but the main character, apparently designed as a strong, resilient wo...more
Marija
This is the kind of book that unfolds like a delectable seven-course meal. Not too rich and everything cooked to perfection. The characters are well-drawn, and sense of place is unforgettable.

What I love about this book is how it shows opportunities and decisions conspire to shape one's life, but outside forces will intrude. We are never truly in control of our own lives. Natural disasters, political forces, and people we randomly meet will change our lives for good and bad.

The plot of this bo...more
Kyra
Loved it, loved it, loved it. Beautifully written fascinating account of the fall from grace & subsequent struggle to establish a life on her own of a Scottish girl from Edinburgh who goes to China in 1903 to marry a rather stuffy unpleasant British military attache. Mary Mackenzie keeps a diary and the novel follows her very brief cataclysmic affair with a Japanese officer recuperating in China from a wound incurred during the Russo Japanese war, her pregnancy, her banishment by her husband...more
Angela
I would rate this book more highly but there was just something lacking about it. Soul, perhaps. It felt a little stiff to me, which perhaps is appropriate, given the refined societies of its characters. But I did really enjoy the book. I read it in the week after I started my maternity leave but before the baby came. So I have very sweet memories attached to it. I also love historical fiction.
Roberta
I found this slow-going at times. I also found Mary MacKenzie a little aloof and I don't think the author intended that. She was quite risque for her day and for the setting in Japan. I didn't get the sense that she mourned the loss of her children at all. Maybe it was that Scottish stoicism. She didn't strike me as cold so much as just kind of blank.
Ruth
I did enjoy this story. I found it impossible to predict what would happen next - so many twists and turns - and this kept up my interest and enjoyment. I learnt a lot about a culture and a time that I knew very little about.
Amy
My mother-in-law who gave me this book is fond of this genre of strong British or "period" women forging a life for themselves, often in foreign countries or with little means. My favorite example is Zemindar, which takes place in colonial India. But this one is NOT my favorite. I was vaguely interested in the idea of Westerners in the Far East at the turn of the last century, but was otherwise pretty bored. I didn't find Mary to be an especially likable or intriguing character. Despite her insi...more
Masina
I loved this book. I recommend that everybody reads it.
Sandy
Jul 23, 2014 Sandy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sandy by: Tammi H
An interesting story of a young Scotswoman who sails to China in 1903 to marry a British officer who was stationed in China and whom she barely knows. She becomes involved with a young Japanese nobleman who is a soldier. This is the story of her life--the choices she makes and how she chooses to live with the consequences of those choices.

Many in our book club did not care for the book because of the repeatedly poor choices made by the protagonist, Mary MacKenzie. I found the book to be an inte...more
Madeleine
Très beau, autant au niveau de l'histoire que de la langue. (view spoiler)

J'ai beaucoup aimé suivre la progressions des pensées de Mary, à la fois sur des sujets qui me semblaient évidents (comme la place de la femme de la société), m...more
Crysta
How does a young Scotch woman survive in China after a short marriage disintegrates? Mary Mackenzie tells her story through diary entries and letters, starting when she was 19 and sailing to China to marry a man she'd met only a couple times. Over the next 40 years, 'The Ginger Tree' winds through Mary's life in first China, but mostly Japan - both of which were in the midst of interesting historic change, from 1903 to WWII.

Mary was an expat before there were many expats, and she was a single w...more
Melissa
I received this book via care package (thanks to Heather) and had no idea what to expect. It was 100% enjoyable. The main character is a traveler who shares such insights and wisdom regarding traveling that make me feel 'connected' to the world of travels. It is a a story of life, exploring, accepting, changing, overcoming, and being set to the backdrop of Asian culture, conflicts and world conflicts - a fascinating read made even more so while living in an Asian nation.

A few quotes which stuck...more
Peter
Am I the only guy who has read this book?

I grabbed this book on my way out the door, on the way to pick up our son from pre-school. If I arrive early, I wait and read a book. I didn't notice until I had arrived at the school that it was not one of my books, but one of my wife's instead. When I told her what I was reading she said; 'You're not going to like that one'. She said that since I usually read a lot of 'guy' type books. WWII memoirs, travel adventure books, some non-fiction History, mys...more
Joan
This novel was written in the 1970s by a man who was born in Tokyo to Scots missionaries. He has combined his personal experience of Japan and his skill as a writer to create a fascinating tale, set in China and Japan in the first half of the 20th century. The main character, in whose voice the story is told, is Mary MacKenzie, who, as a 20-year old, is betrothed to a military attache stationed in Peking. She sets out by ship from Scotland to China, shaped in her habits of mind by the Victorian...more
Catherine Egan
I first read this book ten years ago or more, borrowed off my aunt's bookshelf. Maybe I shouldn't be but I'm always impressed when a male author writes so authentically and powerfully from a female perspective. Mary Mackenzie is one of the most compelling and sympathetic fictional characters I've ever "met". The book begins with her leaving Scotland in 1903, just twenty, to marry a well-born Scot in China, and follows her across forty years, first in China, where she has an affair and is cast ou...more
Rusty
Sometimes a very good read sneaks up on you. So it was for me with The Ginger Tree. Mary MacKenzie, heroine and narrator, tells the story so well that I found myself wondering if this wasn't a true story but, no, when I checked, it was fictional. No doubt the author knew people who were like Mary or lived parts of a life like hers.

Mary tells her story flawlessly through diary comments and letters to those she knows and loves. The story seems to begin slowly drawing the reader in entry by entry u...more
Lisa
Toutes les critiques dithyrambiques de ce livre m'ont vraiment donné envie de le lire et j'avoue ne pas avoir été déçue.
Malgré un début un peu long et lent (mais sûrement nécessaire pour accentuer la profusion d'évènements à venir...)on entre vite dans l'histoire de cette toute jeune femme, Mary, qui quitte son Ecosse natale pour aller épouser un Anglais qu'elle ne connaît pratiquement pas, en Chine où il est installé comme attaché militaire britannique.
A travers son journal intime et les lettre...more
Josie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
shuya
Un livre qui se lit vite, assez agréable sans être absolument captivant ou émouvant. C'est une suite d'entrées de journal intime et de lettres, mais malgré cela l'auteur a tout de même réussi à me surprendre deux fois au cours de la lecture, juste lorsque l'on craint que la routine commence à s'installer entre les lignes.
Le côté agréable du livre tient pour moi au fait que les événements décrits sont tintés d'éléments autobiographiques, et pour une japonisante comme moi, tout à fait familiers. L...more
Alex
Of all the books I've read recently about women and their role in Victorian society, or even earlier, this one in particular struck me. It contains an exceptionally unique yet realistic plot while also addressing the issues women faced in society through a lens which allows modern readers to empathize with a time so different from our own.



Written in 1977 by a Scottish man who was born and raised in Japan, The Ginger Tree follows a Scottish woman, Mary Mackenzie, who's journey begins in 1903 on...more
Llyn
” En 1903, Mary Mackenzie embarque pour la Chine où elle doit épouser Richard Collinsgsworth, l’attaché militaire britannique auquel elle a été promise. Fascinée par la vie de Pékin au lendemain de la Révolte des Boxers, Mary affiche une curiosité d’esprit rapidement désapprouvée par la communauté des Européens. Une liaison avec un officier japonais dont elle attend un enfant la mettra définitivement au ban de la société. Rejetée par son mari, Mary fuira au Japon dans des conditions dramatiques....more
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From Wikipedia:

Oswald Wynd (1913 – 1998) was a Scottish writer, born in Tokyo of parents who had left their native Perth to run a mission in Japan.
He attended schools in Japan where he grew up speaking both English and Japanese. In 1932 he returned with his parents to Scotland, and studied at the University of Edinburgh and began to write novels. When World War II came he joined t...more
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