Review: The Jade Widow by Deborah O’Brien

Title: The Jade Widow

Author: Deborah O’Brien

Published: Random House September 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read from September 28 to 29, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A loose sequel to Mr Chen’s Emporium, author Deborah O’Brien revisits the small Australian town of Millbrooke in The Jade Widow.

As I found the historical thread of the story in Mr Chen’s Emporium more interesting than the modern day plot, I was happy to discover this novel is set entirely in 1885. It has been twelve years since Charles’s tragic death and Mr Chen’s Emporium continues to thrive in Millbrooke under the stewardship of his widow, Amy Chen. With her son nearing twelve, Amy has turned her attention to her dream of establishing a hotel in Millbrooke. Amy is an interesting character in that she believes a lady should act as such, yet is a single mother and successful business owner, uncommon for the times. The conflict plays nicely into one of the main themes of the novel, women’s rights.

Eliza was one of my favourite characters in Mr Chen’s Emporium, a headstrong young lady eager to challenge to patriarchy of the day. In the Jade Widow, Eliza has returned to Millbrooke after studying medicine at the Sorbonne for three years, though she still has a year of study to complete before graduating. Eliza is a staunch supporter of the equality movement and through her, O’Brien explores the challenges women faced a hundred years ago from the refusal of the Australian colleges to allow women to study medicine alongside men, to the debate that still rages today regarding marriage/motherhood vs career.

Both real characters, such as Sir Henry Parkes, and events, like the Mahdist War, are woven into the story and the historical details feel authentic. I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Australian history given the serious lack of education about our country’s past I received at school.

I think The Jade Widow is an appealing novel, a charming and engaging read and like its predecessor, I think would particularly appeal to readers of historical and romantic fiction.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Daystarz Books
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 19:28:42

    Mr Chens Emporium has been on my Kindle for ages, must get around to reading it then check this one out too

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