Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Red Chamber by Pauline Chen‏

From Amazon - In this lyrical reimagining of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber, set against the breathtaking backdrop of eighteenth-century Beijing, the lives of three unforgettable women collide in the inner chambers of the Jia mansion. When orphaned Daiyu leaves her home in the provinces to take shelter with her cousins in the Capital, she is drawn into a world of opulent splendor, presided over by the ruthless, scheming Xifeng and the prim, repressed Baochai. As she learns the secrets behind their glittering façades, she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue and hidden passions, reaching from the petty gossip of the servants’ quarters all the way to the Imperial Palace. When a political coup overthrows the emperor and plunges the once-mighty family into grinding poverty, each woman must choose between love and duty, friendship and survival. 

The Red Chamber is a grandiose piece of literature.  A famous Chinese story, Dream of the Red Chamber, retold, Pauline Chen takes the reader into a world unlike any other.  The novel is slow going, as the reader is introduced to the many characters and at times, it's hard to keep everyone straight.  I had to write names down on an index card so that I could easily move it nearby as I read, but there is a family tree at the beginning of the book. 

The Red Chamber follows three women in a world whose lives depend not only on the menfolk, but also the older women.  Unmarried women are usually kept separate, and these three women learn that although they may find some companionship with one another, it is only truly themselves that they must look out for.

With politics, family intrigue, drama and Chen's generous and vibrant writing, The Red Chamber is profound, compelling and savory.  If you enjoy reading historical fiction or just excellent fiction, don't miss this intriguing and masterful novel!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great review. My wife loves to read and she's currently reading “Turkoise” by Joan M. Sargent. If you go to her website,, you can find out more about her and the book. She's so captivated by this book that I'm looking to get her a few more for her upcoming birthday. I think she'd really like "The Red Chamber". Thanks again.


The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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