The Opium Lord's Daughter

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
308 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2019
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Author Biography

Born in Japan and raised in Hong Kong before moving to the United States nearly 50 years ago, Chinese-American businessman and entrepreneur Robert Wang, being both bi-cultural and bi-lingual, has a first-hand perspective of both Asian and Western cultures and their entwined history. Since he first learned as a schoolboy how this original “drug war” formed the basis for modern Chinese politics and history, Wang had been fascinated by this pivotal period, which became the catalyst determining how modern China has been shaped – and hindered – by Western colonization. Even after settling in the United States, starting a family and becoming a successful entrepreneur and a pioneer in the aerospace industry, Wang remained an ardent Sinophile, fascinated with the lessons and impact of the Opium War and its aftermath. This passion only grew as Wang took note of the modern parallels – particularly the current opioid crisis – that echo similar events and actions from this earlier period.

Wang spent years researching the history, facts and fictions of the Opium War, talking to numerous experts on the subject, both in the United States as well as on Mainland China. In 2018 he embarked on an intensive research trip to Guangzhou (Canton), the nexus of the opium trade and the ensuing conflict, and was granted rare private tours of its museums, led by some of China’s pre-eminent scholars on the topic.

Wang is a father of three daughters, a proud grandfather of three, and resides in Los Angeles with his wife Cindy.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite

I have just finished reading The Opium Lord’s Daughter by Robert Wang, which tells the story of the family of Lord Lee Shao Lin, his daughter Su-Mei and his number one son Lee da Ping during the time of the Opium Wars between Britain and China. Many people may not know of the travesty of this unevenly fought war when the British navy attacked China to ensure uninterrupted trade in tea, porcelain, silks, and spices. Since China had no need to import anything from the west, the currency used to buy Chinese goods was Chinese silver which the British obtained by illegally importing opium into China. Everyone was involved, the Chinese merchants, the corrupt customs officials, the addicts who would do what it took to obtain more of the drug. But then the Emperor issued a decree to halt the trade and the troubles begin. At this time, Sue-Mei meets Travers Higgins from Yorkshire and falls in love – a cross-cultural affair unheard of and disapproved of in 1840. The stage is set for an explosive story in more ways than one.

The Opium Lord’s Daughter is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it in a day and a half and loved every bit of it. The characters leaped off the pages. I connected with Sue-Mei, the heroine, and the words flowed effortlessly. For the hours I was engrossed in this book, I was living in the 1800s in China, surrounded by the sights and smells, the customs and the laughter and sorrow of the young couple and their family. The historical information was woven seamlessly into the story and I suspect the author researched the facts thoroughly, backed up by the pictures in the back of the book featuring many of the real characters mentioned at the time. A fairly balanced argument from both sides which highlights the greed and avarice and arrogance of mankind which has not changed one iota in the last two hundred years. I highly recommend this fabulous book, and I shall file it away to read again in the future. I wish I could award it 6 stars.

K.C. Finn

The Opium Lord’s Daughter is a historical fiction novel penned by author Robert Wang, which is set during the First Opium War of the nineteenth century. Told from the perspectives of Chinese and English participants, this compelling drama focuses on the intricacies and corruption which take place during the trade dealings with England and China and the opium trade which spreads around the world as a result. Our central heroine is Su-Mei, the title character, whose bold defiance of her father’s traditionalism sets her on an exciting and dangerous course to find her own path amid the good and bad people on either side of the war.

Written for adults due to its graphic content, this is a deeply engaging work which does that magical thing where it entertains but also educates at the same time. I knew very little about this period of Chinese history prior to reading, and Su-Mei’s character makes it easy to see the injustices of the time, thanks to her more modern sensibilities. Each scene comes alive with fantastic descriptive work and detailing from author Robert Wang, making for an atmospheric read which really does transport you to the time and place. Character development also plays a huge role, and despite the size of the cast of the novel, each person has due time given to them so that we learn their motivations and involvement with the trade and the war itself. Overall, The Opium Lord’s Daughter is a superb work which will satisfy any historical fiction fan looking for a new avenue to explore.

Brianna T.

I had never read anything in my history classes about the Opium Wars, so it was incredibly interesting to learn about the time period through The Opium Lord's Daughter. During such difficult modern times, one can see the overt parallels with the opioid crisis and East vs. West tensions. Wang does a great job filling the story with crucial historical information, teaching a great lesson without difficult academic jargon that would read like a textbook.

I love a story with a female protagonist, and Lady Lee Su-Mei blossoms despite the adversity constantly thrust upon her. I was really rooting for her to find happiness on her journey. The other characters are just as well-developed, which is always difficult when you're writing a whole world and trying to give everyone their own piece of the story. Su-Mei's brother Da Ping faces a wild and unforgiving world at so young an age; it is simply tragic.

This book has something for everyone—adventures, exotic locales, complicated romances, and epic battles. I highly recommend The Opium Lord's Daughter so that we will not be doomed to repeat history!