Thursday, 17 May 2018

The White Sultana by Pierre Christin and Annie Goetzinger

The White Sultana by Pierre Christin and Annie Goetzinger
First published in French as La Sultane Blanche by Dargaud in France 1996. English language translation by Montana Kane published by Europe Comics in April 2016.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $9.53 / £6.79 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

This is the story of two women. One of those women is Lady Sheringham, interviewed in her manor house, the other is Emma Piggott, who has just passed away in her London apartment, alone. 

To the former, life has been kind. She's gone from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpar, from governess to sultana. She lives in the lap of luxury, engaged in an endless cycle of drinks parties, outings on horseback and the delicious little scandals of the British colonial community. This is a woman destined never to know hardship, other than the loss of loved ones. 

Emma Piggott, a teacher at St. John's, has lived a gray and stagnant life, experiencing Asia only through newspaper articles that she carefully cuts out and collects, but never leaving the Whitechapel neighborhood where her parents kept a grocery store.

And yet, something unites these two women--a little detail, nothing at all really, mere chance, or perhaps just a nightmare that troubles Lady Sheringham's sleep from time to time...

I chose this graphic novel because I liked the idea of its historical fiction aspect and because its illustrator, Annie Goetzinger, was reputed to be brilliant. Overall I did enjoy this story. It is set in the Far East just after the Second World War and in the decade that followed as the British Empire disintegrated. The rags to riches fairytale follows young Emma Piggott from governess to nobility and finally sultana, but we are never quite sure what is reality and what is truth. Does London-based Emma dream of Asia, or is it Asia-based Emma who has nightmares of being trapped in drab London?

I would have liked a deeper, more emotional story and felt that The White Sultana was too superficial for my tastes. However I did appreciate Goetzinger's illustrations especially the various beautifully fashionable dresses worn by the British socialites in Hong Kong. I spotted fashions changing from slim 1940s silhouettes to Dior-style New Look skirts and beyond. The contrast between colourful Asia and monochrome London was particularly effective as well. I am not sure I would seek out more Christin stories, but I would choose more graphic novels with Goetzinger artwork.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Pierre Christin and Annie Goetzinger / Graphic novels / Books from France


  1. The illustrations sound lovely and like you the setting is one I enjoy.

  2. If the inside art is like the cover, it looks really pretty! And that sounds really cool how you're not sure which is real and which is dreams/nightmares.

    1. I didn't realise before reading, but Goetzinger was apparently quite famous in France for her illustration work. Her drawings are beautiful.

  3. I don't think I've ever read a graphic novel without any paranormal or Sci-fi elements themes. This is different.

    1. I'm discovering that there is much more to the graphic novel genre than I had previously imagined!