WHITE POPPY by Margaret Gaan


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Second earnest novel in Gaan's dynamic trilogy concerning the 19th century China opium trade, this concerns Jin-see, the son of Englishman Charlie Tyson (Red Barbarian, 1984). Jin-see's dedication to a ""life-duty"" to eliminate opium from China is a kind of atonement (Charlie was a successful opium trader who repented too late) that has been passed on to Jin-see by his adopted father and father-in-law Yin-kwa. Again there'll be a Chinese-English partnership as Jin-see and his friend Donald Mathes--heir to an opium trading empire--team up for good works from 1861-1900. When Jin-see first meets Donald in 1861, Donald is disgusted with all he's seen of British bullying (he witnessed the destruction of the Summer Palace while interpreting for Lord Elgin) and disturbed by the ""Unequal Treaties"" which gave Britain license to continue its profitable import of Indian opium. He agrees to work with Jin-see, who's forming a trade association, with the ultimate aim of taking over and controlling trade in Chinese opium. The partnership will last 25 years until Donald goes to London to work for abolition via Parliament. Jin-see makes plans to flood the market, block competition, and through a hoped-for edict from the formidable Empress Tzu Hsi, to choke off trade forever. Jin-see's entree to the Empress is his mandarin son, Great Dragon, a presence on the Board of Foreign Affairs. In the meantime, there are family matters: the prestigious, unloving marriage of son Great Dragon, whom Jin-see had always loved a bit less than daughter Julie, whose own true love--Donald--will never be her husband; the tragedy of beautiful, fey wife Olan, who killed her deformed baby; the births of a grandson by Great Dragon, and Jin-see's own son by a peasant woman, conceived in a lovely, secret valley of white poppies. This son will bring terror and death; but the grandson (undoubtedly the kingpin of the concluding book in the series) is a link to the future, and should provide consummation of Jin-see's and Great Dragon's ""life-duty."" A rather flavorless overview of the opium trade era, although the family goings-on have a mild appeal.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Dodd, Mead