Yao-Chang Chen: 傀儡花 (Puppet Flower)

The latest addition to my website is Yao-Chang Chen‘s 傀儡花 (Puppet Flower). The novel is primarily set in Taiwan in 1867 when Taiwan is partially controlled by the the Qing Dynasty and partially by the indigenous tribes. Various foreign powers – Netherlands, Portugal, Britain and the US have been involved, though the US less so because of the Civil War. The key event in this book is the Rover Incident where a US ship is shipwrecked and the survivors killed by the Koalut tribe. Both military and diplomatic force is used, featuring Charles Le Gendre, a French-born US diplomat and various British officials. The Westerners and Qing find even strong military force has limited effect against the guerrilla tactics of the indigenous peoples. However, both sides realise that escalation is not in their interest. We also follow the stories of a recently orphaned brother and sister, Bunkiet and Butterfly who get involved in the political and military machinations, while Le Genre is attracted to Butterfly. Yao-Chang Chen gives us a summary of later events and we learn that the Japanese take over the island and hold it till the end of World War II, with, inevitably, the indigenous population not faring too well. A fascinating novel about a period of history most of us will be unaware of.

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