Linda Mays's Reviews > Imperial Woman

Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck
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's review
Jul 18, 2010

really liked it
Read from July 05 to 18, 2010

I love Pearl Buck so I couldn't wait to read this book. The Good Earth is still my favorite but this one was good as well.

It was particularly interesting for me to see what this time period was like in China since I am much more familiar with books that describe the culture and living conditions in the United States during this era. I realize this is a work of fiction but it is based on reality, so I have no doubt the real Empress Dowager and her predecessors lived the life of extreme physical comfort described in this book.

I had no idea that Chinese rulers were surrounded by opulence that was so wildly over the top. They lived lives of such extravagance that I had a hard time absorbing it all. While pioneers were crossing the plains in covered wagons here in the United States and cooking over camp fires, these rulers in ancient China were dripping in gold and jewels and had servants who catered their every whim.

There was a lot more to this book, of course. It tells how the Empress, an exceptionally smart, ambitious woman, distinguished herself among all the other beautiful women surrounding the Emperor. Then, when the old Emperor died, she made the hard decisions on how to rule the country during times of war and invasion.

But beyond the serious political and historical subjects addressed in this book, what I loved most was the descriptions of the daily life of the Empress when she wasn't involved in matters of state. I wouldn’t want to be confined to the palace as she was, but she had servants to bath her and rub lotions of extremely rare ingredients into her skin before they styled her hair and dressed her in the finest silks and jewels then brought her dishes of the most delicious foods in all the world. She was carried everywhere and spent most of her time in leisure. Then once or twice a year she was carried to a luxurious summer palace where she could have a vacation from her difficult daily life back at the main palace.

Yes (sigh) in some ways, hers was a life I could get used to.

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