Friday, 16 April 2010

The lacquer lady (Tennyson Jesse) 12

The lacquer lady was included among the wonderful pile of VMCs that FleurFisher kindly sent me back in February. I had heard a lot of good things about this one, but put off reading it - I had LOVED A pin to see the peepshow, but had been extremely disappointed by Moonraker, and the blurb on the back of this one didn't really sell it to me. How glad I am that I am doing this challenge, because I really enjoyed The lacquer lady in the end and would probably have passed over it.

Written following a prolonged trip to Burma that Jesse made in the 1920s, where she experienced court life, The lacquer lady is the story of schoolgirl Fanny; half Burmese she has been educated in a school in Brighton and returns to Manderley at the start of the book to be reunited with her parents. Fanny immediately emerges as somewhat of a character, not terribly truthful and constantly attempting to better her position. She wasn't hugely likeable, and this characteristic continues throughout the book (but sometimes it is interesting to have a less likeable heroine?). Once in Manderley she becomes friends with one of the princesses at the court of the Konbaung Dynasty and frequently is a guest at the palace; Fanny spends more and more time in the company of court, becoming immersed in Burmese culture and life.

The book goes on to relate two parallel strands; firstly Fanny's ageing and need to come to terms with this, but secondly, the political changes in Burma in the 1880s. Fanny is so caught up in the luxuries of courtly life that this almost passes her by... I didn't know anything about this place/time so it was absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective.

It's a very early VMC, but like Tennyson Jesse's other works, it's only been published once with an original green cover.


  1. How funny--I was looking for another book in my library and came across this on the shelf. When I saw it was a Virago I had to take it with me as well, though it still sits on my desk at work. I am very curious about it and may have to give it a try as well--it sounds like a good read.

  2. Verity - I had a black dial press edition of this one so maybe it was published twice? I'm sorry to say I didn't enjoy this book, maybe it's because I didn't find Fanny a likeable character. I've since given my copy away to another person in the LT VMC group.

  3. Danielle - Viragos are just irresistible!

    Astrid - yes, many of the VMCs are also issued as Dial Press editions. I don't tend to make note of that as I don't have a full list of them/