The Yellow Emperor’s Cure

Kunal Basu. Overlook, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59020-708-6
Basu (The Opium Clerk) taps the simmering anger and uprising of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900s Peking, China, in this convoluted historical novel. Intent on finding a cure for syphilis after learning that a relative has contracted the disease, Portuguese national Dr. Antonio Maria travels with a Western legation to China to learn the Yellow Emperor’s Canon. Under the tutelage of Dr. Xu, physician to the empress, Antonio learns about qi and yin and yang. Separated from the legation, he falls in love with Xu’s assistant, Fumi, and finds himself stuck between his legation loyalties and the growing romance with the Chinese woman and her Eastern ways of treating illness. Mysteries surround Fumi and Xu both, but by the time Antonio unravels them it’s too late to avoid involvement in the dangerous rebellion. While the novel is full of mystery, romance, and cultural details, only the historical aspects feel fully realized. The romance thread plays more like a device used to reveal character rather than a natural relationship, and the bald xenophobia of the legation as well as Antonio’s own arrogance makes for a cast of unlikable characters. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/22/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Hardcover - 319 pages - 978-0-7156-4287-0
Paperback - 978-93-82616-16-0
Hardcover - 325 pages - 978-1-4472-1137-2
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