Review: Alexandra Curry – The Courtesan

The Courtesan
Alexandra Curry

From a treasured life as a loved Courtesan’s daughter, Jinhua takes a step back into the dregs of where courtesans are made – from feet binding to orifice rape. This is her story from misery to misery.

29908433You’d think that since I was up until 1am finishing this book (and doing some other writing) than means I enjoyed it. Honestly, I’m not sure that I did. There were huge time gaps and gaps in Jinhau’s memory that made me fall out of the novel time and time again.

The violence, particularly sexual violence, seemed not to add very much to the story. I would have been far more excited if the rape had lead to death, rather than just another one occurring. By the end, I was basically no longer worried about it – they’d easily get out the other side. Rape just became part of the landscape. Isn’t that a horrible thing to say?

Perhaps it could have meant more to me if I was familiar with the historical period it was set in. I have to say my grasp of China’s politics, in addition to its geography, was very slim on the ground. All countries have a horrific past, and some are still that way (I’m an Australian, and i can tell you that horrible things are still going on). This one was nothing new.

I think it takes courage to write a novel like this one, where it is based on a well known (to the Chinese) folk/fairy tale / legend. That doesn’t mean I loved it. Jinhau just gave me no reason to love her. Her best friend seemed just as weak. What am I to say of weak though? I admired the woman before Jinhau – at least she was sensible enough to put herself out of her misery!

Why couldn’t I love this? Was it the detailed writing that put me off? The graphics of everything that made it difficult for me to get into the story? I don’t know. But I’m reassured to see that some other people didn’t love this novel either. I’m tossing up between 2 and 3 stars – I did at least finish it afterall.


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