Reviewed by Jessica Tingling
The Opium Lord’s Daughter by Robert T. Wang is a gripping tale of corruption, addiction, and conviction in the face of insurmountable odds. Wang’s novel explores the contentious trade relationship between England and China during the Nineteenth Century that lead to the First Opium War. Through personable characters, Wang provides well-rounded insight into the actions and objectives of the two nations. His characters emerge from all walks of life and effortlessly weave into his tale. Although an in-depth historical fiction piece, Wang brings personality and understanding to this complex topic. His incorporation of photographs and drawings in the back of the book bring his chronicle to life. As Wang explains, “history is more than academic theories—it is the stories of real people affected by events put in motion by other real people.” The novel follows the family of Lady Lee Su-Mei, the daughter of the largest opium trader in China during this time. Through Wang’s retelling we come to know not only Su-Mei and her father but also her brother Da Ping, who becomes addicted to the rampant drug in his struggle to step into the shoes and responsibilities of his father. We also come to know other members of the family’s community, as well as some of the English men associated with the opium trade. These individuals include Su-Mei’s adopted sister Pai Chu and the English sailor Travers Higgins, who both ultimately fall in love with Su-Mei. When the time comes, only one will earn her eternal love and affection. Within each nation, we find supporters and opponents of opium, following England’s delivery of the drug and China’s reliance on the addictive substance. Moreover, within both countries we witness stereotypes and intolerance based on surface interactions, previous experiences, and propaganda circulated in the media. Wang’s descriptions and antidotes bring the narrative to life and capture the complexities of this time. Wang has crafted a spellbinding tale of love, endurance, sorrow, history, and strength. This is ideal for a mature audience given the dense historical analysis and explicit romantic liaisons. Those seeking a captivating, romantic historical novel will find themselves right at home between the pages of Wang’s book. Despite the complexity of the content, readers across the board will be glad they picked up Wang’s latest publication. Robert T. Wang’s The Opium Lord’s Daughter is an exceptional work of fiction that will capture readers from cover to cover.