In 1913 an orphan girl boards a steamship bound for Wuhu in South East China. Left in the hands of her soft-hearted but opium-addicted uncle she is delivered to The Hall of Eternal Splendour which, with its painted faces and troubling cries in the night, seems destined to break her spirit. And yet the girl survives and one day hope appears in the unlikely form of a customs inspector, a modest man resistant to the charms of the corrupt world that surrounds him but not to the innocent girl who stands before him. From the crowded rooms of a small-town brothel, heavy with the smoke of opium pipes and the breath of drunken merchants, to the Bohemian hedonism of Paris and the 1930s studios of Shanghai, Jennifer Epstein's first novel, based on a true story, is an exquisite evocation of a fascinating time and place, with a breathtaking heroine at its heart.
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