The House Of Wives by Simon Choa-johnstonThe House Of Wives by Simon Choa-johnston

The House Of Wives

bySimon Choa-johnston

Paperback | May 3, 2016

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Two women compete for the affections of their opium merchant husband in a tale of friendship, fortune and rivalry in colonial Hong Kong

In 1862, a young Jew from Calcutta named Emanuel Belilios leaves his dutiful wife Semah and sets sail for Hong Kong to make his fortune in the opium trade. There, he grows into a prosperous and respectable merchant, eventually falling in love with his Chinese business partner's daughter Pearl, a delicate beauty twenty years his junior. As a wedding present, he builds for her the most magnificent mansion in Hong Kong. Then Semah arrives unannounced from Calcutta to take her place as mistress of the house...and life will change irrevocably for all of them.

Inspired by the lives of Choa-Johnston's ancestors, The House of Wives is an unforgettable novel about the machinations of the early opium trade, and about two remarkable women determined to secure a dynasty for their children in the tumultuous British Crown colony.
Simon Choa-Johnston was born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in Canada. He graduated from McMaster University in 1972. He did post graduate theatre studies in New York, returning to Canada to work in the theatre for over thirty years as an artistic director, director and playwright. He was awarded the Governor General's Canada 125...
Title:The House Of WivesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.75 inPublished:May 3, 2016Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0670069477

ISBN - 13:9780670069477

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Beautiful writing Choa-Johnston writes beautifully. Each of the characters has a distinct voice and the setting is vivid. There were a few plot points that I found uncomfortable and ultimately made Emanuel's character distasteful to me. So, I found the first part of the book that focused on him to be less engaging. Once the women came together, I felt the book started to come alive and I admit I had a hard time putting it down because I wanted to see the development of their very complicated relationship.
Date published: 2017-06-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could have been much better ** spoiler alert ** I started off loving this book. The writing was beautiful, the world was colourful and the characters were all complex and fascinating. But then as time went on my opinion of the story lowered until by the end I debated 2 stars. If was obvious it was written by a man. The comments about the "poor man" having sex with his wives, 'Oh he's a good husband because he didn't rape her" "he's a good father because he didn't sell her as a slave." The men characters didn't treat the women in their lives well and there seemed to be too much justification for the actions of Emmanuel who I couldn't stand. Sleeping with his nanny, dumping his wife and then marrying someone else and then getting angry that they weren't all happy with his arrangement that they all suck it up. I also wasn't sure what the point of the story was: that opium is bad? That the bond between women is stronger then with men? The ending came out of nowhere and didn't flow with the rest of the story. And then the time jumps that made no sense and erased any possible character or relationship development. And the title of the story "House of Wives" didn't come up until the end and I was uncomfortable with the relationship between Emmanuel and Pearl. Like she says she's not attracted to him and then all of a sudden they can't keep their hands off each other. He met her when she was a child! Then he gets all horny. Ugh. It could have been so good and I am disappointed that it wasn't.
Date published: 2017-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this book! This is a beautifully-told story of a family's rise and fall over the years and the continents, and the love of 2 devoted women. A must-read.
Date published: 2016-09-08

Editorial Reviews

“From playwright Simon Choa-Johnston comes a powerful narrative that could only be delivered by a perceptive mind enriched by a worldview formed by decades of multifarious experiences which, in turn, are articulated with nuanced literary finesse.”—THE PIONEER, New Delhi   “Simon Johnston has written a rollicking great novel that kept me turning the pages so fast they almost burst into flames. With a powerful and lush sense of place, this story of love, opium, and an exotic city will leave its mark on you as it did on me. Sublime storytelling.” —TERRY FALLIS, author of No Relation and Poles Apart   “The achievement of this epic novel is that it will not leave you alone—it will call to you (even in the night) to return to its colourful, daring and sometimes outrageous characters and to keep up with them until they are ready to let you go. What a feat of artistry and storytelling!” —JOSEPH KERTES, author of Winter Tulips and Gratitude   “In this richly imagined tale, Simon Choa-Johnston fleshes out the bones of his exotic ancestry and gives it the theatrical sweep of opera – engrossing.” —PLUM JOHNSON, Charles Taylor Prize-winning author of They Left Us Everything   “The story of the two strong women jousting for Emanuel's love is the most compelling feature of the book.” —THE ASIAN AGE, India   “With gripping descriptions in beautiful language, the narrative leaves a reader wanting for more.” —HINDUSTAN TIMES, New Delhi   “Although set in the 1800s, this remarkable story about a Jewish opium seller in Hong Kong and his two wives reinforces how notions of love, family, betrayal, and ambition are universally consistent.” —THE PIONEER, New Delhi