Amanda Roberts’s says, “There is a sequel, Our Hart: Elegy for a Concubine, but I really can’t take any more of Lofthouse’s writing.”
Too bad, because in the 117,000 word sequel, the word “erection” never appears, and Hart has matured and is a changed man—the same one his journals reveal—from the one who arrived in China struggling with his Wesleyan, Victorian, British guilt because in 1854, he was as horny as a room full of adolescent boys and a few years before his death, he did his best to sweep those years under the rug by burning seven years of his journals that cover his first decade in China.
The reason we know about Ayoau is because they had three children together, and in 1865 Robert arrives unexpectedly in Northern Ireland with Anna, Herbert and Arthur Hart, and without Ayoau.
Some historians believe Ayaou died in child birth (the theory that I prefer), but others claim there is a letter that proves he sold—or gave with a dowry—Ayaou to another man in an attempt to whitewash his reputation.
We know that he took the children to Ireland where he found them a foster home, and Hart never sees those children again.
If it had not been for those three children, I’m sure that Ayaou would have been banished from Hart’s edited and revised history too.
3rd edition: April 2013
How would you describe a man that may have sold the mother of his first-three children to another man and then takes those children halfway around the world from China to Ireland so their mother never sees them again? If this theory is true, what does that say about Robert Hart?
There is one last reckless and false claim by Roberts that I want to clarify: “I really didn’t know how this book was published until I realized that the forward was written by Anchee Min, Lofthouse’s wife,” Roberts says, “Anchee Min is one of the most important writers of English Chinese literature today. I have several books written by her and have enjoyed her writing. I can only guess that Lofthouse was able to get his book published by riding his wife’s coattails and I can just imagine poor Min having to grit through her teeth as she had to smile and say, ‘yeah, Lloyd, this book is great.’ Poor woman.”
In fact, my wife had nothing to do with the publication of this book, because I am an indie author. She also did not tell me ‘this book is great’. I did not use her agent or her publisher. And my wife had nothing to do with the recognition this book has earned from other reputable unbiased sources. You see, not everyone agrees with Amanda Roberts’s “moral duty to spare others the pain of reading it.”
However, Anchee was my go-to-source about everything Chinese—[her Website, which I maintain], and she was the first person to read and comment on the first rough draft to the point where she made suggestions/criticisms about how Ayaou and Shao-mei would have talked and behaved. Most of the dialogue between Hart and his sister concubines was heavily edited and revised.
If I couldn’t find information on a subject that might enhance the story, I asked her—for example, the Chinese poetry that appears in the novel. My wife has several books on Chinese poetry written centuries ago and she translated a few of those poems into English so I could use them in the story.
In the end, though, the final decisions on all things to do with the plot were mine. I started researching and writing My Splendid Concubine in 1999 and continued to research and work on it for the next eight years. By the time I had a final draft, if I had stacked all the revisions and rough drafts in a pile, it would have stood as tall as I stand—more than six feet.
Continued on March 25, 2013 in Dissecting the “Moral Duty” of a Reckless and False Review: Part 6 or return to Part 4
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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