Manchu (1980): Robert Elegant

★★

The Imperial China Trilogy: Book I

Sometimes a book wears you down. You find yourself plodding away at it, determined to finish but finding that the number of remaining pages never seems to get any less. This, I’m afraid, was one of those books. A sweeping epic following the Jesuit mission in China in the mid 17th century, and told through the eyes of an ambitious young Englishman, it had scope to be very engaging. And it isn’t screamingly bad. It’s well-informed and detailed to a fault. But one is left with the powerful sense that 200 of its 634 pages could have been cut without any great loss to the story – in fact, probably to its advantage.

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