The Yellow Emperor’s Cure
Antonio Maria is the most famous surgeon in Lisbon in the late 1800s. Admired both by colleagues and the ladies of the city, he works very hard and plays just as hard. Nothing seems better to him than a day full of successful operations followed by an evening of drinking and wooing the ladies. Indeed, his reputation precedes him that ladies vie for his attention during a siesta walk or an evening’s festival celebration.
All of that changes in a horrific moment when he is suddenly called to his father’s home, only to learn that his father has the dreaded, incurable disease of syphilis. Unable to find anyone who can teach him how to cure the disease, Antonio’s friend tells him there is a famous doctor in Peking, China, who can perhaps teach him how to treat this devastating illness.
At first appalled by the smells and strange habits of this exotic land, Antonio falls in love with his strong-minded and quietly passionate teacher, Dr. Xu’s assistant, Fumi, who originally is meant to help Dr. Xu teach the basic and advanced precepts of Chinese medicine, a challenge to impatient Antonio, who wants a quick answer and not a lengthy schooling. Living within the empress’s safe enclave, Antonio doesn’t realize how volatile his situation could rapidly become with the increasing attacks of the Boxers, a revolutionary group wishing to rid China of foreigners who have brought disease and aggressive treatment with their prosperous businesses.
Kunal Basu smoothly makes the transition from the light-hearted world of Lisbon to the peaceful and then highly charged world of 19th-century China. Romantic, humorous, and informative, Kunal Basu’s novel is highly entertaining, although a bit light on historical facts about the Boxer Rebellion.