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The Ginger Tree

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,743 ratings  ·  244 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Sep 10, 2011 Chrissie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Maggyheintz Heintz
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Karen Hogan
A Scottish woman married to an English officer in China, has an affair with a Japanese nobleman with dire consequences. I thought the relationship between Mary collingsworth and count Kentaro Kurihama somewhat contrived. I did find Mary's life in Japan as a foreigner and outcast fascinating. Not a page turner but interesting.
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
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
This is by far the most interesting book I have read this year. The joy of participating in a book club is that you are often introduced to a book you would not find on your own, and that was precisely the case with this 1977 novel.

Written as the first-person account of a young woman travelling to Asia in 1903 to marry a Scottish military attaché, I was totally captivated by her story from the first page. It was very apparent, early on, that this was going to be a rough ride for our protagonist
Oriyah Nitkin
If I'd actually read the back of the book, instead of just judging it by its cover, (anyone who follows my reviews, are you sensing a pattern here?) I probably wouldn't have read the book at all. I generally try rather hard not to read the summaries on the backs of fiction books as they tend to give away most of the story, making the entire unfolding pretty unnecessary. How many books are written in such stunning, evocative language that you would bother with a re-telling if you were already fam ...more
It felt to me like the author had very carefully plotted the twists and turns out well before he started writing this book. And had a clear idea of how much (and exactly what) history he intended to get over as well. I really struggled to get into the book - only continued as it was a choice for one of my book clubs. I don't feel the author really got either into his female protagonist's head - or her knickers either. If she was so put off sex by her horrid first husband, why was it so easy with ...more
The Book
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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.
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.
I initially thought this book a bit stuffy however I quickly became absorbed in the story and the historical events of the early 20th century. The writing style provided an insight into the character of the heroine from the beginning of her journey from Scotland to China and provided some wonderful descriptions of both Chinese, Japanese culture and described attitudes towards women in this period. I felt the diary entries allowed the reader an intimate picture of Mary's changing feelings towards ...more
In 1903 a young Scottswoman sails for Peking to meet and marry a man she only knew slightly. On the ship she begins to show what is to become her independent streak. Upon reaching China, she finds that her husband is not really interested in her and remains aloof except for brief sexual encounters at night. She has a daughter and eventually her loneliness allows her to have a affair with a Japanese Military Officer. Becoming pregnant she is sent away by her husband and instead of returning home, ...more
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.
Reading this book in Japan and I was touched by the fact that this book seemed a lot more than a fiction. Glad for the historical references which fuelled my curiosity about Japan's place in revolutions and wars, something not much focused on in English history lessons, but also touched by the story. This book caused me to.question the social expectations and morality surrounding marriage and adultery not just in the time of the war, but in our day too. Would she still be looked down upon in tod ...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I loved this book. I recommend that everybody reads it.
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
Prince William Public Library System
Young Mary Mackenzie of Scotland sails to China in 1903 to marry her betrothed Richard, a British attaché in Peking. Mary finds China fascinating yet dangerous in the post Boxer Rebellion period. After an argument about the wedding service, Richard and Mary marry. They are blessed with a baby girl, Jane. Mary and Richard are not kindred spirits. Mary finds Richard parsimonious and unromantic. Richard must travel frequently, and Mary is restless and lonely. Befriended by other foreign residents M ...more
Bobbie Darbyshire
I'm re-reading this fascinating story spanning 1903-1942 in the life of a Scottish woman who travels to China to marry an English military attache, and then things unravel. N.B. Don't read the Amazon or back cover blurb - they give away far too much!
It's even better this time, when I can savour each page rather than rush to find out what happens. Whatever your reading tastes, I'd be surprised if 'The Ginger Tree' doesn't blow you away. It should be on all the must-read-before-you-die lists.
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
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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
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“Laughter between two is sometimes a closer act of love than any other.” 20 likes
“Why do we have to make such terrible decisions for our whole lives when we are too young to know what we are doing? The big mistakes are hung around your neck and you have to wear them forever.” 9 likes
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