My dearest friend Beverley Jackson gone digital with her first novel The Beautiful Lady Was a Palace Eunuch set in China's Forbidden City in the early 20th century. Beverley tells the story of Li whose empoverished mother has him castrated at the age of 6. Her heart-wrenching gamble is intented to ensure a confortable life of servitude for her son as a eunuch whitin the confines the Forbidden City's Imperial Palace.
As it happens, the gifted Li gains swift entrée through the palace doors. His doll-like features and songbird voice draw the attention of the Empress Dowager Cixi, whose royal patronage allows him to hone his skills and secure a future both publicly as a renowned opera star where he plays female roles and secretly as an obsessive collector of magnificent jewels.
Jackson's tale follows Li's journey from the Forbidden City to Peking, then to Shanghai, where he transforms himself into the alluring and wealthy "Lily Ying", an inadvertent fashion sensation amid the glamour of 1920's Shanghai. Such high-profile success has its own price giving rise to dangerous rivals.
"The Forbidden City had as many as 30,000 eunuchs in residence at its zenith" Jackson says. "To my knowledge there has not been a novel about eunuchs at the Forbidden City. I wanted to show what life was like for them behind those imposing red walls"