'When I was nine, in the city now called Kyoto, I changed my fate...What I asked for?
Any life but this one.' When Aurelia flees the fire that kills her missionary uncle and leaves her orphaned and alone in nineteenth-century Japan, she has no idea how quickly her wish will be answered.
Knowing only a few words of Japanese she hides in a tea house and is adopted by the family who own it: gradually falling in love with both the tea ceremony and with her young mistress, Yukako.
As Aurelia grows up she devotes herself to the family and its failing fortunes in the face of civil war and western intervention, and to Yukako's love affairs and subsequent marriage.
But her feelings for her mistress are never reciprocated and as tensions mount in the household Aurelia begins to realise that to the world around her she will never be anything but an outsider.
A lushly detailed, spellbinding story, "The Teahouse Fire" is an unforgettable debut.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 400 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 03/01/2008
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780099516187
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Review by princesshaiku
The tale of "The Teahouse Fire," by Ellis Avery is set in late nineteenth century Japan. The story plunges deeply into the smoky brew of an entangled relationship, between the daughter of a Japanese Tea Master and a French orphan seeking asylum from a life as a convent domestic. Like the roots of a plum tree, the two girls grow up twisted around each other in an ambiguous context of love and cultural dissonance. Japan edges towards modernism as the characters seek identity and spiritual meaning, in a tragic denouement guaranteed to keep the pages turning.