Erin's Reviews > The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
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Feb 06, 11

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Read from January 27 to February 06, 2011

This book tells the story of a Chinese princess who rejects her traditional role and becomes a notorious figure in pre-WWII Japan. Based on a true story, the premise of this tale is really interesting. Eastern Jewel's rebellious spirit leads her to flee her arranged marriage and become a Japanese spy. However, the writer fails to make Eastern Jewel a sufficiently sympathetic protagonist, and the story falls flat.

I never felt as though I understood Eastern Jewel's motivations and desires. She's a relentless sex addict, perhaps because she equates sex with freedom, but the writer does not allow Eastern Jewel enough introspective moments that would give the reader true insight into her behavior. Eastern Jewel wants to be shocking and notorious, but we don't know why, necessarily. She discards relationships, both friendly and sexual, with callousness. She feels comfortable with lies and betrayal. She cares for no one more than herself. In order to sympathize with a person like Eastern Jewel, you'd need to really get inside her head and understand what makes her tick. You'd need to sense that she's a redeemable character at the end of the day. This just never occurred in this book. I didn't like her and I didn't root for her.

This is an interesting portrait of a particular place and time, but the book left me wanting more of a connection with Eastern Jewel and a true understanding of her choices.
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