First published in 2014
A witty and playful mystery set in contemporary Beijing, The Empress Lover is Linda Jaivin’s seventh novel and her most accomplished.
While living in Beijing in 2010, an Australian woman, Linnie, receives a mysterious letter. The writer, Reinhard Hoeppli, asks her to meet him at a bar, saying he has something to give her. What’s more, it will answer a question that has long troubled her about her identity. However, this is impossible, for Hoeppli died in 1973. Or did he? This is not the only puzzle in the plot of this thrilling dive into hidden corners of China’s modern history.
Along the way, we meet Sir Edmund Backhouse, a polyglot scholar, closeted homosexual, forger and fantasist. If his memoirs are to be believed, moreover, he was the lover of the redoubtable Empress Dowager of China. He was also Hoeppli’s friend. And Linnie just happens to be writing a novel about him called The Empress Lover.
Like Backhouse, however, Linnie is also a person of many parts and secrets…