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Set against the upheavals of 19th-century imperial China, Da Chen’s My Last Empress is a sweeping story of passion and obsession.

From the critically acclaimed author of Brothers, Colors of the Mountain, and Sounds of the River

Set against the upheavals of 19th-century imperial China, Da Chen’s My Last Empress is a sweeping story of passion and obsession.

My Last Empress: A Novel

Da Chen
  • Imprint: Crown Publishers
  • On sale: October 2, 2012
  • Price: $25.00
  • Pages: 288
  • ISBN: 9780307381309
Contact: Sarah Breivogel

Praise for My Last Empress:

“Chen’s lyrical prose enhances and deepens the eerie tone of this atmospheric melodrama.” Booklist

“Steeped in the language and colors of an Asia long gone . . . Lolita-esque.” Publishers Weekly 

“In My Last Empress, Da Chen pushes the reader into the strangest corners of the human heart, with a style bathed in dark glamour. Like a fan opening, vane by mysterious vane.” —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander (an Oprah’s Book Club novel), and the New York Times bestselling novel Paint It Black

Praise for Brothers:

“Complex and brilliant. This is magnificent fiction.” Washington Post Book World

“An epic novel that neatly distills modern Chinese history. . . . Chen’s elegantly written novel ends on the promise of redemption and perhaps even reconciliation.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Chen’s inventive and sprawling family saga eloquently recreates a time of enormous upheaval.” Publishers Weekly 

“Part Greek myth, part One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, and all China, Da Chen’s new novel is intoxicating. A thrill and an education.” —Benjamin Cheever, author of The Good Nanny

“This book is fantastic in every sense of the word—a saga of China that is at once exotic and universal—an epic tale of destiny entwined with history.” —Laura Shaine Cunningham, author of <i>Sleeping Arrangements and Beautiful Bodies</i>

“Within this sweeping, ambitious, historical novel, there is a beautifully wrought story of young men coming of age, related to one another but strangers, and heading toward a breathtaking collision.”
—Ron Nyswaner, author of Blue Days, Black Nights: A Memoir

“I am old, decayed, and fermented. I am a dead tree with a rotten cavity within which grows a stem of flower­­—my last empress. . . .  Age makes simple all urges. Only the essence of life remains; the rest matters not at all. Daily I rise to do one small task: write down what transpired from that initial spark to the final flame, patching pebbles of my past into the riverbed of the present.” So begins bestselling author Da Chen’s beautifully rendered tale of nineteenth-century romance, MY LAST EMPRESS (Crown Publishers; On Sale October 2, 2012; $25.00), in which Chen’s narrator Samuel Pickens recounts the tragedy of his lost love and the beguiling transcendent bond that remains to lure him into a life of palace intrigue and scandal in imperial China, forever bound to his search for a love phantasmal and ethereal.

Comparing the process of writing MY LAST EMPRESS to the traditional Chinese art of calligraphy, Chen, whose earlier novel Brothers was named a best book of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, Publishers Weekly, and the Washington Post, views his latest novel as an “homage to the art of prose and poetry making.” “I didn’t write this book,” says Chen, who spent nearly ten years crafting the novel, “I stitched one word and another onto this tapestry.” Characterized by the same keen sense of mood and atmosphere that earned Chen praise for Brothers, the romance of MY LAST EMPRESS lies in its cadence as well as in its story.

Inspired by Chen’s encounter with a statue of the first Yale graduate to be beheaded in China’s Box Rebellions in 1896, Samuel Pickens’s tale begins at the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover. There he falls in love with Annabelle Hawthorn, a wise-beyond-her-years missionary’s daughter raised in China. Annabelle enamors Pickens with the songs of her bamboo flute and the exotic dress of a Chinese empress, herself “full of myth and mythology.” After Annabelle dies in a fire, the devastated Pickens is propelled into a frenzy of lost love, bewitched by the whims of Annabelle’s ever-present ghost that longs to return to the Orient. When a series of coincidences he believes to be orchestrated by her spirit land him in the position of tutor and advisor to the Chinese emperor, Pickens discovers the truth of Annabelle’s past and finds himself embroiled in a dangerous love affair with the emperor’s fourth and favored empress, Qiu Rong, who bears a connection to his own lost love, a seeming incarnation of Annabelle herself.

Captivatingly mystical and rendered in the dreamlike language of love and nostalgia, MY LAST EMPRESS is a fascinating and delicately woven portrayal of nineteenth-century imperial China and an impassioned exploration of the ever-tumultuous relationship between love, madness, and obsession.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DA CHEN grew up in China and graduated from Columbia University Law School. Brothers, Da Chen’s acclaimed first work of fiction, made the 2006 best book lists of the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, and Publishers Weekly. His other books include the New York Times bestselling memoir Colors of the Mountain, Sounds of the River, Wandering Warrior, and China’s Son. He lives in California with his wife and two children.

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