Wan Ni's Reviews > The Teahouse Fire

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery
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Sep 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: orientalism-and-exotic, 4-stars-and-better

** spoiler alert ** Elegantly crafted, The Teahouse Fire is a fiction set in late 19th century Japan. The protagonist Aurelia, a French young girl who lived in New York, was brought to Japan by her uncle. Following the death of her mother and the escapse from her abusive uncle, she finds herself taking refuge with a family who specialises in Japanese tea ceremonies, temae. She grows up as a servant in the household, and learns the art of tea from her mistress, Yukako. Yet at the turn of the century when foreign influences inundated Japan, she was yet again placed in a helpless position as she was ostracised by the Japanese as an unclean gaijin. Throughout the book we see her struggling to learn and to be accepted.
I didn’t know that this book can be classified as lesbian fiction when I first picked it up. To me it was more Orient and Historical, like Memoirs of the Geisha and Shogun. I was a little pleasantly surprised when I got to the part of the story where Aurelia discovers her love for a girl named Inko. Frankly, I was confused at first and did a second take to make sure I read it right; I didn’t expect it from the book synopsis. Her love, throughout the book, is bittersweet. I shall not give out spoilers here, but the book had a good ending. I really liked the ending; it’s light, sweet and positive. Nothing too spectacular; it’s simply down-to-earth like watching a sunset.
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