I've looked at this book, F. Tennyson Jesse's The Lacquer Lady, so many times in the library that I decided I just needed to bring it home with me. It doesn't appear to be in print any longer and I don't see Tennyson's name mentioned much either, but Virago Modern Classics have always been a reliable source for me for really good literature by women that I think I need to read this now (or very soon anyway). It has the air of adventure and exoticism about it, which I think I am in the mood for a the moment.
"First published in 1929, this prodigious novel of adventure and romance matches the great tales of Kipling and Stevenson, Buchan and Maugham. Based on a true historical incident, The Lacquer Lady is set in the 1880s in the gem city of Mandalay during the last years of the opulent, decaying Kingdom of Burma. Into the Royal Palace, with its whispering gardens, its elaborate ritual, its savage violence, its intrigue, comes Fanny Moroni, the young daughter of a ne'er-do-well British merchant and a burmese woman. Pretty, vain, impertinent, and brave--just back from a dull boarding school in Brighton--Fanny becomes the favorite of the Burmese queen, Supaya-lat."
You'll recognize the name, she was the great-niece of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, but she began her own writing career as a journalist. Interestingly she was one of the few women reporters in WWI who actually went to the front. I'd be curious to read those writings, though I'm not sure they've been reprinted. She published them in Collier's Weekly. There are some freebies out there, including The Sword of Deborah: First-Hand Impressions of the British Women's Army in France, which I'll be loading onto my Nook. It's a very short work, only a bit more than 123 pages. Here's what she says in her foreword:
"This little book was written at the request of the Ministry of Information in March of 1918; it was only released for publication—in spite of the need for haste in its compiling which had been impressed on me, and with which I had complied—shortly before Christmas. Hence it may seem somewhat after the fair. But it appears to me that people should still be told about the workers of the war and what they did, even now when we are all struggling back into our chiffons—perhaps more now than ever. For we should not forget, and how should we remember if we have never known?"
As for The Lacquer Lady, it's based on a true story and was published to good reviews.
How's this for a little faraway escapism:
"The crocodile walked, as sedately as the blustering wind permitted, along the parade. A dark reptile, sharply articulated, it crawled along the strip of asphalt that separated the pearly wind-blown sky and pallid sea from the greys and duns of the town. To closer view it was plain that the reptile was divided into living sections; two and two the girls struggled along, be-ribboned sailor hats bent forward, brown kid-gloved hands clutching at the rims; heavily-swathed and many looped dresses of blue serge blown against those moving pillars of flesh and bone that were never called legs, but referred to as lower limbs."