Review – The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley

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The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel
Maureen Lindley
Kindle format | 2008 | 308 pages

   I wasn’t sure what drew me to this book. I suppose I found the cover interesting, with its bright red and its Asian theme. Then reading the blurb on the kindle store and seeing it was about a Chinese princess, sent to live in Japan who turns spy. It certainly piqued my interest.

I haven’t read that many historical novels, and this one, based on the real figure of Eastern Jewel (Dongzhen) (see wikipedia) and set during the early part of last century in the build up and duration of the 1st and 2nd world wars – was not something I would have usually reached for. I was not that knowledgeable about the Sino-Japanese wars, despite having studied the language. War is not something that interests me. This book might have changed that.

Yoshiko was named a Major, and often dressed in men's clothes.

Yoshiko was named a Major, and often dressed in men’s clothes.

Eastern Jewel (or Yoshiko Kawashima as she was also known) is often nicknamed the Eastern Mata Hari for her role as a female soldier/spy.

The book reads well, told in first person through her journals. She skips chunks of her life though which confused me because I thought it would take more time describing her childhood however once I got used to the idea of missing out parts of her life, I quite enjoyed the book. It added an extra layer of mystery which was extended by the ambiguous ending.

There is a lot of sex here. Essentially the character of Yoshiko is a bit of a sex-obsessed, opium-loving woman with trust issues, daddy issues and an inability to express her feelings properly. Despite her unlikable traits, you can’t help but like her – she is brutally honest. Weirdly enough for a spy.

I wished I had been able to show my mother that I loved her, but something in my nature finds it hard to give people what they want. I don’t believe she ever knew the depth of my affection for her, ever knew that it was she that made me capable of love. {…}With hindsight, I imagine that she lived her days with a brick in her heart from the loss of me.
~ Eastern Jewel, chapter 1

The book seems well researched (though I honestly am not a fair judge of that given my self-proclaimed lack of knowledge on the era previously mentioned!), with lots of beautiful description and detailed insight into life in Japan, China and Mongolia during that time.

I think people who enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha and other such historical novels will certainly find this one a good read.

Want a copy?

Private Papers of Eastern Jewel
(Kindle Edition, UK)

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