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The Last Concubine by Lesley Downer

The Last Concubine

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Shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2009.

Set in Japan in the late 19th century this is an epic love story and a fascinatingly well researched historical novel to boot. The 1880's in Japan were a time of revolution, old ways of tradition were being swept away and we experience it through the eyes of Sachi, once a lowly peasant girl now elevated to the giddying heights of concubine to the Shogun.

If you like Lesley Downer you might also like to read books by Lisa See, Christina Courtenay and Victoria Hislop.


The Last Concubine by Lesley Downer

How do you fall in love when your society has no word for it? The Last Concubine is an epic love story closely based on historical events, chronicling 19th century Japan’s extraordinary change from a medieval to a modern country. This is the story of a shogun, a princess and the three thousand women of the women’s palace - all of whom really existed - and of the civil war that brought their way of life to an end ...

Japan, 1865: the women’s palace in the great city of Edo is a sprawling complex much like a middle-eastern harem. Bristling with intrigue and erotic rivalries, the palace is home to three thousand women and only one man - the young shogun. Sachi, a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl, is chosen as his concubine.

But Japan is changing. Black Ships have arrived from the West, bringing foreigners eager to add Japan to their colonial empires. As civil war erupts, Sachi flees for her life. Rescued by a rebel warrior, she finds unknown feelings stirring within her; but this is a world in which private passions have no place and there is not even a word for ‘love’. Before she dare dream of a life with him, Sachi must unravel the mystery of her own origins – a mystery that encompasses a wrong so terrible that it threatens to destroy her ....

From the timeless beauty of the Women’s Palace in Edo to bloody battles fought outside its walls, The Last Concubine is an epic evocation of a country in revolution, and of a young woman’s quest to find out who she really is.


'Thoroughly researched, this beautifully descriptive historical saga offers a fascinating insight into the culture of imperial Japan, and will have you hooked from the first page - wonderful.' MY WEEKLY

'A sweeping historical drama...fluently written, and the political events, battles, customs, minutiae of daily life and even the weather have all been meticulously researched to recreate Japan in the 1860s.' LITERARY REVIEW

'Enthralling story that brings alive a distant exotic world.' WOMAN & HOME

About the Author

Lesley Downer

Lesley Downer’s mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia.But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring.She lived there for a total of some fifteen years.It has been an ongoing love affair.

She has written many books about the country and its culture.To research Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, she lived among the geisha and little by little found herself being transformed into one of them. Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, is the story of the turn-of-the-century Japanese actress who was the model for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Lesley has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4, the BBC and NHK.She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and still makes sure she goes to Japan every year. The Last Concubine is her first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

11th February 2008


Lesley Downer

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Transworld Publishers Ltd




Romantic Fiction
Historical Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
eBook Favourites



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