Wednesday, January 17, 2018
“Concubine” by Elsie Dean: Part of a double novel from Universal Publishing in 1953. The second novel, “Savage Mistress” by Jon Hartt, I haven’t read yet. The title is a bit misleading, as this is not the story of a concubine but a play on Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Little Flower, of the House of Chiang is left without a family and taken to live in the House of Wong. The old Wong has a mistress named Morning Glow, but she’s becoming too old, and tells Little Flower she must escape before Wong calls her to his bedchamber. She tells her about an American missionary in town that will help you people, and then devises a plan for her to escape.
Little Flower escaped and the missionaries take her in. Tom and Celcilia give her a room, but Celilia does not approve of her, while Tom helps does. Staying with them is their young nephew, Almose, who they want to study and become a missionary also. But young Almose has other plans; he wants to be an artist. When Almose and Little Flower meet they are instantly attracted to each other, and eventually become lovers. Almose has married her before God through a painting, but telling her he must leave shortly for school, but will come for her once he becomes a master artist and created his masterpiece.
After he leaves, Little Flower discovers she is pregnant. The story now takes on the harsh reality of betrayal and heartbreak. Tom & Cecilia take Little Flower and her daughter to America where the young daughter, Mara (named after the Virgin Mary), has artistic talent like her father. Little Flower learns that Almose has married another artist and will never return to her. Lee Yuen, who had met her on the boat to America, knows the ways of Americans, and their hatred of non-whites, and tells her that she will eventually need his help. The time comes when her only ally, Tom, dies of cancer, and Cecilia moves in with her sister, and there is no place for Little Flower and her daughter.
She goes to Lee Yuen, and he treats her good. She does not have to share his bed, but keeps house for him, and he promises to wait till she loves him. However, Mara grows cold against Little Flower for the trouble her mother has caused her. It has not been easy for Mara being a half-caste. After graduating high school Mara leaves for New York and art school.
Now the story comes full circle, as Mara meets her father, and Little Flower discovers that Lee Yuen is running the largest drug cartel in San Francisco, and she is little more than a prisoner in the house as Lee Yuen’s madness is now apparent, and she learns the truth behind the disappearance of Almose, and who was behind it from the very beginning.
This was a sad story of two young people torn apart by the madness of someone else, and their love destroyed for evil purposes, but the ending is heart-warming, and touches the heart. It is really nothing like I thought it would be, and yet much better than advertised.