22. Empress of Asia

Empress of Asia by Adam Lewis Schroeder

Pages: 409
Finished: Feb. 2, 2008
Reason for Reading: Received a review copy of the US edition. Canadian challenge
First Published: 2006
Genre: historical fiction, fictional memoir
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

A beefy-faced guy was pushing the gurney when they came to get you; he rolled it up the driveway and must've caught the corner of the Taurus just above the headlight because now there's a pretty good gouge in the paint.

Comments: An elderly man, seventy-something, visits his dying wife in the hospital and on her deathbed she gives him a cryptic message that sends him back to Singapore, where they both were Japanese POWs. Then the action transfers to 1940 when our narrator is a young man and joins the merchant navy. Thus begins an epic story that spans from 1940 until the present, through Canada, Singapore and Indonesia. A fascinating insight into one man's war, a war that shaped the person he would become for the rest of his life.

The book is written in the first person, but as the narrator is writing to his dead wife it occasionally slips into the second person which at first is a bit difficult to read but becomes less noticeable as the reader becomes familiar with the narrative. My main problem with the book is that there are no chapters, instead the book is divided into three parts, with Part 2 being the majority of the book. This made the book feel overly long to me, a problem I think would be easily solved with chapter breaks. The narrator is very well-written, a believable character and a true product of his time. I hesitate to throw names around, yet I felt a distinctive Atwood resonance, but from a male perspective, to the book.

An impressive first novel, I eagerly await to see what Schroeder will offer next.


  1. Thanks for the review!

    I won a copy of this book from Raincoast books, and I never got to it. It is also on my list for the Canadian Books Challenge, and I am going to read it.

  2. I'll be interested to read your review! Lucky you, to win the book.

  3. I was intrigued by this book when it was offered by LibraryThing Early Reviewers. The cover reminds me of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, doesn't it? Glad you enjoyed it - I will have to check it out one day.


  4. Yes, it does Jill! I hadn't thought of that, but the book itself reminds me of the Blind Assassin as well. The story is very different, but I just felt it had the same feel, kwim.

  5. The book cover seems misleading to me. I never would have guessed the subject matter based on that cover. It sounds like a good book. i'll try to remember it for John's next Canadian Challenge.

  6. I've picked this book up time and again during visits to Chapters, but have never decided fully whether I want to read it or not. Still not completely sure, but your review does shed some light on it - sounds like I'd have some problems with the lack of chapter breaks. :) Thanks for the review.


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