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Manchu Palaces: a novel

Henry Holt & Co., 1996, and others

Authors Guild/iUniverse, 2009


"A luminous, self-contained, fluid world in which history, legend, and a religious quest create a portrait of an age....An exemplary novelist again makes history a playful parade of personalities, period details, and ordinary people conscripted by the times."

     Kirkus Reviews


"This is an intricate and beautiful book made up of stories about stories which contain stories, and I loved it."

     Karen Joy Fowler


"Jeanne Larsen is a gifted storyteller, evoking the grandeur and complexity of imperial China with rare grace and skill. A deep stillness lies at the center of this book, and a heightened sense of life's mystery and sacredness. Her language is sparkling and limpid--the perfect medium for this adventurous tale. Manchu Palaces deserves a wide and sympathetic audience."

     Jay Parini 


"Rich and wonderful as a dream in full color, Manchu Palaces offers a total imaginative immersion in the lives and arts of China's last great imperial dynasty. Ghosts and flesh, the characters and thin resonant voices are unforgettable. Their own stores and the stories that they tell are paradigms of pleasure and meaning. Jeanne Larsen's Manchu Palaces is a lovely, original novel, echo-haunted, lyrical, and wise."

     George Garrett


"Lotus's story, encompassing arranged marriages, the fate of concubines, the education of women, religion, and other conditions of life in the Forbidden City, as well as elements of Chinese mythology, philosophy, and Buddhism, is both educational and thoroughly enjoyable."

     Nancy Pearl, Booklist


"The most remarkable feature of Ms. Larsen's novels is her complex and subtle narrative method. Writing out of an impressive knowledge of Chinese history and culture, she makes exposition part of the narrative, interweaving sections of myth, storytelling, invented scholarly essays, and philosohical meditation, each related to the central story....Manchu Palaces is a magical book that breathes life into a world." 

     Delia Sherman, The New York Review of Science Fiction 


"Anything may happen in Larsen's novels of China. Stories told in one place  may become fact in another. All is interwoven, each footfall shakes the cosmic web somewhere else, until we begin to suspect that we too may have been made up.....Sex is a force to be reckoned with here, one of the threads of energy that holds the world together and no point in denying it. ...a magical realist novel with a Buddhist perspective and a lyrical narrtive; a fine book and a tale with much to say to us on the intrinsic longings of human nature."

     Amanda Cockrell, the Hollins Critic 


"The various narrative perspectives and different narrative voices give the novel a breadth and depth that reflect Larsen's own dynamic acuity for Chinese culture, history and literature. Manchu Palaces will be well received by any reader looking for an engaging story that could fall into the genres of Women's Writing, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, and of course Buddhist Fiction. Better yet, if you want to go on a trip to China and don't have the resources to leave your current situation, just pick up this book."

     Kimberly Beek, Buddhist Fiction Blog 

Guanyin on a Lotus Leaf, artist unknown, Qing dynasty, 18th century, courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art