An amazing book....beautifully written. A bit slow in spots, but worth it for the rich detail. The story of a young, unspoiled woman in a loveless marriage in Japan at the turn of the last century who gets pregnant from a brief affair with a japanese nobleman and is turned out of the European community to make her way in a strange land. I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this one is a jewel!
What I loved most about this book is that the character feels very real. She changes and grows throughout the novel and acts in unexpected ways at times, unlike the thoroughly predictable, one-dimensional character found in many novels.
Betrothed to a military attache in Peking, twenty-year-old Mary MacKenzie sets sail for China with a frugal trosseau and a suffocating chaperone. But Mary, a young Scotswoman, is lively, curious and unspoiled. The year is 1903, and it will not be long before she scandalizes the British in Peking bay falling into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman. Her odyssey begins in earnest when she is torn from her small daughter and turned out of the European community. How she survives in an ancient Eastern culture that barely tolerates women, much less Westerners, is the story of The Ginger Tree, a compelling novel that spans more than forty tumultuous years in the Far East--including two world wars and the cataclysmic Tokyo earthquake of 1923.
I really enjoyed this book--couldn't put it down, actually! Interesting, well-written story. The only thing you have to be careful of is paying attention to the dates on the journal entries because sometimes it skips months or even years, which threw me off a couple times. A very good read!
Sometimes a very good read sneaks up on you. So it was for me with The Ginger Tree. Mary MacKenzie, heroine and narrator, tells the story so well that I found myself wondering if this wasn't a true story but, no, when I checked, it was fictional. No doubt the author knew people who were like Mary or lived parts of a life like hers.
Mary tells her story flawlessly through diary comments and letters to those she knows and loves. The story seems to begin slowly drawing the reader in entry by entry until you begins to wonder what will happen to Mary.
The tale begins with Mary leaving Scotland to marry a man who lives in China. She barely knows Richard, and discovers that it is a poor match. Her husband, like many military men, seemed to have married her because he thought she had wealth. He is controlling and communicates little to a wife who needed affection. In addition, he is gone much of the time, and, because of her youth and background, she makes few friends.
Lonely, she finds herself drawn to a Japanese man who is mysterious and gentle. Her affair with him ends her life with Richard who takes their daughter and sends her to live with his parents. He intends to send her home to Scotland in disgrace but Mary travels to Japan instead. Her Japanese lover already has a family so she becomes his mistress. When she has a son, the boy is taken from her to be raised by a Japanese family. With this incident, Mary discovers that she is a survivor and makes a life of her own.
The story seems to begin slowly drawing the reader in entry by entry until you find yourself wondering what will happen to Mary. I loved her independence, her initiative, her understanding of her situation over and over, and her realistic reactions to the crises in her life.
When I read about the author I understood why the book is so outstanding. Wynd grew up and attended schools in Japan. And, he is Scottish, like his heroine. I couldn't help wondering why he turned to writing thrillers after this novel (as Gavin Black). If you haven't read this one, I urge you to do so. It will remain in my memory for a long time.
Beginning in 1903 and ending at the start of WWII this is a wonderful novel about a Scottish girl who travels to China to marry a British man she barely knows. Her experiences in China and Japan are peopled with extraordinary characters and many twists and turns to her life.
In 1903, a naive, inexperienced Scottish girl, Mary Mckenzie, sails to Peking to marry her fiance, British military attache, Richard Collingsworth, younger son of an upper class family. After a long and trying voyage, she is befriended by a sophisticated older Frenchwoman, who introduces her to a Japanese soldier, Count Kurihama.
At the turn of the 19th century, a proper young Scottish woman heads to the mysterious Orient. Over the course of this well-regarded, well-written novel, she strays from the strictures of her early youth and upbringing to scandalize the British diplomatic community into which she married, leaves her husband, and bears a child fathered by a Japanese diplomat. Engaging story that has contemporary sentiments. This novel was televised as a Masterpiece Theater series back in the 1970s.
Really wonderful yet heart wrenching piece of literature. I felt it started out a little slow but before long I was intrigued and I felt wrapped up in this young ladies life and the tragedies that ensued from her decisions. Well worth the read.
This is a book that stays with you for a long time, not because it is a page turner, which it is not, but because it seems such a realistic tale of a young european woman living in the mysterious east in a time when women were particularly vulnerable without family at hand.
A very proper young woman travels to Asia to marry a man based there in diplomatic service. She barely knows him yet travels many miles to wed and to take her place as a proper married woman. While Mary remains a proper woman throughout her life in Asia, her life does not unfold the way she imagines it will. Hers is a tale of romance, courage, strength, fortitude and with an amazing ability to adapt and carve a good life for herself. When I think of this book, I am moved by her strength to re-create herself over and over.
I'm glad it wasn't a completely unhappy ending but the book dragged for most of it. Not a lot of detail for some of the more important events in her life (birth of baby, affair, etc). Maybe the reader is expected to use their imagination but the author might take more time to build the story rather than waste pages on unimportant facts about topics unrelated to the story.
I read this year's ago and found it again on PBS. I'd forgotten the title and author but never the story. I still picture the places in my mind. My memory drifted back to this unforgettable book recently as I read Empire of the Sun which also takes place in this area of China. Great read to get lost in.