Picks and Pans Review: Manchu
A student in a Jesuit school in the north of France in 1624 turns out to be too adventurous for the priesthood. He becomes a soldier and goes to China. The great Ming Dynasty is ending, so there are dramatic events enough for a wonderful novel. The problem, as with Elegant's 1977 best-seller Dynasty, is the prose. Example: "From the eminence of his masculinity, Manuel Bocarro was amused equally by her passion and by the unaware disdain with which she gathered her full skirt of white samite interwoven with shining gold to keep from brushing the soot-filmed furniture of his cubbyhole." His characters, too, are those unbelievable inhabitants of Historical Novel Land who shuffle about only to keep a cliché-ridden, 560-page story in motion. (McGraw-Hill, $12.95)
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