Touted as an expert in all things erotic and widely regarded as an expert in Chinese culture, author Linda Jaivin has seamlessly combined the two in her most recent novel A Most Immoral Woman.
Based on a true story, A Most Immoral Woman is set in China in 1904. It is primarily the intriguing story of George Ernest Morrison â€“ an intrepid Australian doctor, journalist and lover. Morrison is based in Peking â€“ a correspondent for the Times of London he is highly regarded by both the Chinese population and the large Western community based there. Considered to be the most eligible Western bachelor in China, Morrison considers his social standing to be of utmost importance and although he loves to gossip, considers his own morals and judgements to be above reproach. At least that is until he meets the Most Immoral Woman of the title.
Mae Perkins is the free-spirited daughter of an American senator and millionaire, and Ernest Morrison finds himself utterly entranced from the first moment he meets her. What follows is a turbulent tale of lust and sexual obsession, where all else pales into insignificance as the affair between the two develops. Morrison becomes entirely consumed by his relationship with Mae â€“ and is alternately enthralled and outraged by her wanton ways. He is completely unable to accept her behaviour on the one hand, behaviour largely dominated by sexual escapades that she delights in recounting in vivid detail, and drawn to her because of his own urges on the other.
The book is written in keeping with the period it is set in, but fortunately does not fall into the category of â€˜stuffy\’. It is entertaining, witty and a thought provoking look into sexual obsession, lust and morality â€“ all of which are as relevant to contemporary society as that of the early twentieth century. The book does contain explicitly described sex scenes as well as plenty of scenes that are merely hinted at but still leave a lasting impression â€“ on the reader as well our long suffering hero Morrison!
As a backdrop to the love story is the war between Russia and Japan â€“ fighting for control over northeast China. As the war rages, Morrison and his colleagues must fight to see the best news coverage get out of China, men ahead of their time it seems. The book is laced with detail about the war, as well as interesting detail about life in China. Chinese customs and beliefs are woven through the story â€“ from both the Chinese and Western perspectives.
Overall I found this book to be an enjoyable read, despite the fact it is not a book I would ordinarily choose myself. It is a passionate story – the story of a woman who lives her life honestly and loves without regret; and the story of a man so entranced that he is pulled to her by a force more powerful than anything he has ever experienced.
Available now: HarperCollins RRP$32.99