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In the bestselling tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha, a riveting saga of early twentieth-century China, where a mother and a daughter fight to realize their destinies in a world where women could still be bought and sold. Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coi In the bestselling tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha, a riveting saga of early twentieth-century China, where a mother and a daughter fight to realize their destinies in a world where women could still be bought and sold. Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coin. He smiled to himself, pouring fresh tea. And it would stop her from running away… When the young concubine of an old farmer in rural China gives birth to a daughter called Li-Xia, or “Beautiful One,” the child seems destined to become a concubine herself. Li refuses to submit to her fate, outwitting her father’s orders to bind her feet and escaping the silk farm with an English sea captain. Li takes her first steps toward fulfilling her mother’s dreams of becoming a scholar — but her final triumph must be left to her daughter, Su Sing, “Little Star,” in a journey that will take her from remote mountain refuges to the perils of Hong Kong on the eve of World War II.


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In the bestselling tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha, a riveting saga of early twentieth-century China, where a mother and a daughter fight to realize their destinies in a world where women could still be bought and sold. Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coi In the bestselling tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha, a riveting saga of early twentieth-century China, where a mother and a daughter fight to realize their destinies in a world where women could still be bought and sold. Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coin. He smiled to himself, pouring fresh tea. And it would stop her from running away… When the young concubine of an old farmer in rural China gives birth to a daughter called Li-Xia, or “Beautiful One,” the child seems destined to become a concubine herself. Li refuses to submit to her fate, outwitting her father’s orders to bind her feet and escaping the silk farm with an English sea captain. Li takes her first steps toward fulfilling her mother’s dreams of becoming a scholar — but her final triumph must be left to her daughter, Su Sing, “Little Star,” in a journey that will take her from remote mountain refuges to the perils of Hong Kong on the eve of World War II.

30 review for The Concubine's Daughter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Duckie

    I probably would have liked this book better if it had been better researched, but I kept tripping over factual errors. The author claims his background in martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine gave him enough information to write a book on Chinese history, but he should have done more formal research if he intended this to be historical fiction. In the novel, he states that Macao was ceded to Portugal because the Portuguese defeated the pirate Koxinga, but Koxinga died in 1662 and Macao I probably would have liked this book better if it had been better researched, but I kept tripping over factual errors. The author claims his background in martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine gave him enough information to write a book on Chinese history, but he should have done more formal research if he intended this to be historical fiction. In the novel, he states that Macao was ceded to Portugal because the Portuguese defeated the pirate Koxinga, but Koxinga died in 1662 and Macao was ceded in 1887. He also refers to one character in 1924 as a "barefoot doctor," but this term was unknown prior to the establishment of the PRC in 1949. He refers to the Buddhist goddess of mercy alternately as "Kwan-yin" and "Kwan-yun" (in Cantonese it would be "Kwun-Yum"). There are also several occasions where Chinese characters are called using half of their first names; for example, Ben calls the main character "Li Devereaux" instead of "Li-Xia Devereaux." I don't know if this is the case in Hong Kong, but in other parts of China this is a strange way to refer to people. None of these errors affects the plot, but they do undermine the reader's confidence in the novel as a whole. The author pretty clearly relies on his own personal outsider impressions of China as a basis for the novel, instead of relying on historical facts. In the appendix he describes the area where the novel takes place with words like "the Far East," "Oriental," "wild," "wicked," and other terms better suited to a travel brochure than to a work of historical fiction. The storyline is exciting and the author incorporates a lot of sensual detail, which makes this an entertaining work of fiction, but this is not historical fiction. In the appendix there is no list of the author's sources and no mention of his research process. As a whole, this novel should be assumed to have all the historical accuracy of a Wikipedia entry. Some of the information might be true, but since the author doesn't verify his own research nothing here can be taken as fact. ETA: Since this review has gotten a lot of likes, I should probably mention a few things. I myself am not Chinese, though I am fluent in Mandarin and have been for nearly a decade. I'm also not a Chinese scholar, and at the time I wrote this I had almost no formal background in research aside from Googling (which is clearly more than Mr. Pike did), so it's possible there are additional errors that someone better versed in Chinese history would notice. Others' reactions to this book may vary. But for what it's worth, despite being an outsider to Chinese culture I was very, very uncomfortable with the idea of a white man writing under an assumed Chinese name, publishing a biased and factually error-filled account of Chinese historical fiction for his own personal profit.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    I've been reading this one on and off for one year and ten days now. It's so loooooooong and sloooooooow and by the time I got to Part 2 I just wanted it to be over. So ... DNF @ Page 263 (53%) VOILA! It's over. It's just so draining. It seems like it has an interesting story but it's so flowery and poetic and takes so damn long to say anything that it just became a chore to read. I found it so hard to pick up. I also really struggled with figuring out when it was set? I think it did eventually I've been reading this one on and off for one year and ten days now. It's so loooooooong and sloooooooow and by the time I got to Part 2 I just wanted it to be over. So ... DNF @ Page 263 (53%) VOILA! It's over. It's just so draining. It seems like it has an interesting story but it's so flowery and poetic and takes so damn long to say anything that it just became a chore to read. I found it so hard to pick up. I also really struggled with figuring out when it was set? I think it did eventually mention it somewhere but I honestly had no idea. There's a lot of info about the culture, in excruciating detail, and while you kinda feel sad for all that Li-Xia ha to go through, it's too long-winded to solidify the bond between character and reader. This is one for the patient readers, who like to take their time and mull over pretty words. There IS an intriguing story here, but I just don't have the time or patience to tease it out of all the superfluous detail. I'm as done as I'll ever be, I think.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    So many complaints about this book: 1. This book is supposedly historical fiction, but it doesn't have nearly enough history. This story could have taken place in almost any time during recent-ish Chinese history. I picked this up because I wanted to read about Hong Kong in the 1900s, but this story really didn't have much to do with that specific time period (WWII is only hinted at becoming a threat) -- or Hong Kong, for that matter. And the ending takes this book into fantasy territory, which i So many complaints about this book: 1. This book is supposedly historical fiction, but it doesn't have nearly enough history. This story could have taken place in almost any time during recent-ish Chinese history. I picked this up because I wanted to read about Hong Kong in the 1900s, but this story really didn't have much to do with that specific time period (WWII is only hinted at becoming a threat) -- or Hong Kong, for that matter. And the ending takes this book into fantasy territory, which isn't really what I signed up for. 2. There was far too much rape in this book. And... 3. ... all the rapists were Chinese men. All of the Chinese men in this book were evil! Evil, evil, evil! But oh, those Western men were just so dreamy and wonderful and swoon! Master To and Ben's gardener were both fine and decent men, sure, but all of the Chinese love/sexual prospects of the three women are brutal, cruel, and incredibly unattractive. I had no problems with the love story between Ben and Li Xia; reading about an interracial relationship in China during that time period was interesting. But why couldn't her daughter have fallen in love with a dashing young Chinese man who was able to appreciate her mixed heritage? Why did both women have to fall in love with their Western male saviors? 4. After reading the interview with the author (a, surprise!, Western male married to a Hong Kong woman), the above point left an even worse taste in my mouth. He throws around terms like the "Far East'; admits that he thinks there is "no great need for historical facts" because there are a billion Chinese people, so this story is bound to be a part of someone's history, amirite; and then offers up his marriage to a Hong Kong woman to support his beliefs, if you even think that his "impressions of China needed any qualification." Arrogant and gross. Don't waste your time on this book. There's far better historical fiction that's actually based upon Chinese history and that's carefully researched, that offers fleshed out characters (Chinese or otherwise; male and female), and doesn't veer into black magic and white magic. Very disappointing read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    2.5 The story was engaging... until.... I got to Part Two Red Lotus.... Why oh why? I have trouble knowing the author is a Western male writing his book in a pseudonym. Geoff Pike wasn't good enough? Trying to fit in Geoff? It was not historical fiction because it was a story of 3 generations on women. Hardly anything was said about the time period or wars. I just know it was after sexy Lotus Feet were banned by the Chinese government and WWII was creeping in. The women were made to be strong but 2.5 The story was engaging... until.... I got to Part Two Red Lotus.... Why oh why? I have trouble knowing the author is a Western male writing his book in a pseudonym. Geoff Pike wasn't good enough? Trying to fit in Geoff? It was not historical fiction because it was a story of 3 generations on women. Hardly anything was said about the time period or wars. I just know it was after sexy Lotus Feet were banned by the Chinese government and WWII was creeping in. The women were made to be strong but then their male Western saviors came and fell madly in love with them and then it would all go to shite right after having their babies, hence the multi-generational "saga." I didn't like that it enhanced stereotypes about the Chinese. I'm not Chinese so I don't know how much of this personality trait is true or just racist. All the Chinese men discriminated and then raped the women. Were there no nice Chinese men to be found? Men and women couldn't stand someone rising above their caste even if they had never met the person she was always a cheap whore. Delicacies were a human corpse gelled in honey for a year, dogs cooked over a fire with soy sauce, animal testicles, eyeballs... I will admit it turned my stomach a bit. The ending was crap and something out of one of Bruce Lee's movies which didn't fit the character. It was engaging until it was not. This book got compared to Amy Tan's 'The Joy Luck Club' and if anyone goes into this wanting this same experience you will be sadly disappointed. Amy Tan knows her shite and makes memorable stories and characters.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Buffy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Please note that my thoughts on this book contain spoilers. Well, those of you who read my thoughts on books will know that I absolutely LOVE it when a book contains racism, discrimination and misogyny. Let me tell you...this was a heady mixture of all three. I don't even know where to start with this book. There were so many things that pissed me off. I nearly stopped reading it several times, but it was like a massive multi-car pile up on the highway. I couldn't stop myself from rubbernecking. Le Please note that my thoughts on this book contain spoilers. Well, those of you who read my thoughts on books will know that I absolutely LOVE it when a book contains racism, discrimination and misogyny. Let me tell you...this was a heady mixture of all three. I don't even know where to start with this book. There were so many things that pissed me off. I nearly stopped reading it several times, but it was like a massive multi-car pile up on the highway. I couldn't stop myself from rubbernecking. Let's start with this question: Who the hell is this book even about?? We start out following the life of Li-Xia from the date of her birth. We grow up with her and experience her tribulations until some crazy bitches try to kill her and she's rescued by the gorgeous Benjamin Devereaux. It's at this point that the story turns really romancey. (This is the point where I almost put it down the first time.) Yes, she's devastatingly beautiful and she wants to be a scholar. Great, you're thinking. Smart and beautiful is good. And it is, however, even the smartest and most beautiful women have flaws. Not Li-Xia. She's freaking perfect. Did I also mention that her new husband is also fabulously rich? So she gets the opportunity to use her newly found wealth to revisit people who have wronged her but she doesn't take pleasure in letting them see her success. She doesn't gloat at all. She's far too noble for that. So then she gets pregnant (and this part is going to be super spoilerific, just so you know) and everything is fantastic until she gets a visit from her husband's arch-enemy one night while he's out. He rapes her and disfigures her face with acid and leaves her for her husband to find after telling her that he'll be back to kill her child after it turns 3 years old. This brings on labour and she ends up giving birth to her daughter (WHO IS ACTUALLY THE RED LOTUS THE BOOK IS NAMED FOR) with the help of her maid. So then what does she do? What any of us would do, obviously. She gives the maid some money and her child and tells her to hide her somewhere and raise her. The maid leaves and Li-Xia bloody well jumps off the balcony to a watery death. I mean, let's face it, she's lost her looks. What good is she any more? Oh, and I forgot to mention that her motto is something like 'Run from no one'. (I can't remember what it is exactly and I can't be bothered to look through the book to find it.) But it's something to that effect, yet she's too embarrassed to let her husband see her so she abandons her child to the fates and offs herself. Way to stick to your credo. So here we are in the middle of the book with the main character dead. So now we accompany Red Lotus aka Siu-Sing as she grows up and blah blah blah. She's no smarter than her mother even though she's taught to read and write as well as martial arts. Her arch nemesis is a cripple who was cast out of his house when he was born because his foot was twisted and he's pissed off because she took his place as the disciple of this wise old guy. Her master warns her several times that the tiger (her nemesis) will try to sneak up on the crane (her) so she must always be vigilant. Her nemesis manages to catch her unaware EVERY TIME he confronts her further along in the story. Even at the final showdown. Yet she's meant to be more powerful than him. Wait. What...? Here, again, is a story where a woman's most powerful attribute is her beauty no matter how many other talents or skills she might have. This seems to happen all too often when men write from a female point of view. (I do realise that women tend to write men the way they would like them to be and that gets on my tits as well. That's just not the case in this instance.) The entire book also had the overlying theme that westerners are good and noble and that the Chinese are all scheming crooks who are going to try to cheat you. The good guys were either westerners, married to westerners or friendly with westerners. The bad guys were Chinese and Red Lotus's enemy was disabled. And my final problem with this book is that Red Lotus fell in love with a British officer for no reason other than he helped her one day when she was about to upchuck. After that they spent a lot of time together and her friend was like 'Oooooh, I can tell you really like him. You should have sex with him.' And she was all 'Yeah, he's dreamy. I totally will.' (Ok. Those are my words. But that was the gist.) So there you have it. Another book filled with beautiful but stupid women.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wan Ni

    An epic tale spanning three generations of headstrong women damned to suffer the worst and most bizarre of fates. An Orientalist novel through and through, with requisite themes of foot-binding, human trafficking, prostitution, female homoerotic encounters masquerading as intimate friendship, geishas, kungfu and silkworms. The author is British, despite his Chinese name. His research involves travelling extensively to the Far East in his youth, and possibly entering teahouses where girls played An epic tale spanning three generations of headstrong women damned to suffer the worst and most bizarre of fates. An Orientalist novel through and through, with requisite themes of foot-binding, human trafficking, prostitution, female homoerotic encounters masquerading as intimate friendship, geishas, kungfu and silkworms. The author is British, despite his Chinese name. His research involves travelling extensively to the Far East in his youth, and possibly entering teahouses where girls played the er-hu like a violin (see p352: "...grateful that her face was fixed in a downward position, her cheek cradled into the neck of the er-hu."). And not forgetting namedropping Singapore, casually claiming it's a place in Macau that sells chilli crabs. A map would have been useful research material. The only merit? No other book can get more Orientalist than this. It's so horrid it is good, in the sense of racist jokes being guiltily funny.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ana Mardoll

    The Concubine's Daughter / 978-0-312-35521-0 I was excited about "The Concubine's Daughter" because the teaser write-up compared it to one of my favorite novels in recent memory, "Memoirs of a Geisha". Unfortunately, "The Concubine's Daughter" is not, in my opinion, anything like "Memoirs of a Geisha", and the best comparison I can offer is that it feels like a bare-bones, watered-down attempt at an Amy Tan novel. "Memoirs of a Geisha", for all its faults, was populated by human beings, not carica The Concubine's Daughter / 978-0-312-35521-0 I was excited about "The Concubine's Daughter" because the teaser write-up compared it to one of my favorite novels in recent memory, "Memoirs of a Geisha". Unfortunately, "The Concubine's Daughter" is not, in my opinion, anything like "Memoirs of a Geisha", and the best comparison I can offer is that it feels like a bare-bones, watered-down attempt at an Amy Tan novel. "Memoirs of a Geisha", for all its faults, was populated by human beings, not caricatures. It was a realistic world, not a world of fantasy - where fathers sold their daughters, yes, but sold them because they would otherwise starve to death. Women were hateful and competitive towards each other, true, but with a good purpose and reason - they had been placed into a society where competition determined who lived and who died. In short, characters were complex and motives were ambiguous. In "The Concubine's Daughter", however, there is no ambiguity and no shades of gray - characters are completely good or completely evil with no middle ground and, indeed, often without any reason. Within the first chapter, the scene is set - an aging, wealthy farmer has bought himself a fourth wife from a once-rich family. The qualities he desires in a wife are simple - he is a sadist and is attracted to the girl because her family and personal bearing are proud and haughty and he cannot wait to dominate and humiliate her in the bedroom. On their wedding night, he orders his other three wives to hold the girl down while he beats and rapes her, and he takes great pleasure in his attempts to "fill the b_____ with sons". When the hoped-for son turns out to be a daughter, he attempts to strangle the child and bury her in his field, as he has done with all his other daughters (except for the first one, who was brutally gang-raped and murdered at age 10, for no apparent reason except that the author must have had some kind of per-chapter 'rape quota'), and as "everyone else" in the village regularly does, and this deserves a closer look. I'm not Chinese and I've never even been to China, but I question the assertion that strangling all baby girls was just something that everyone in the village did, all the time. Even assuming that no one noticed that such a practice would mean no brides for the village sons when they came of age, even assuming that there wasn't a single sentimental father among the lot of them, it seems strange that a completely agrarian village of farmers would value females so little, when the bulk of the field work and all of the house work was being performed by the women of the house - after all, *someone* has to tend the fields while the master's sons are learning to read, and if not daughters, then who? There aren't any slaves to be seen, and servants have to be fed, clothed, and paid at least as much as children, so this "kill all girls" thing seems incredibly unlikely on a number of levels. I can certainly believe that some - perhaps most - of the baby girls would be murdered in a given society with certain dynamics, but to insist that *all* the men kill *all* the girls seems ridiculous and feels like further attempt on the part of the author to make all the men out to be evil demons rather than people, particularly when the "nice" men enter the novel and turn out to all rather suspiciously be at least partly European in birth. The reason I compare "The Concubine's Daughter" to an amateurish attempt at an Amy Tan knockoff is that all the prerequisites are there: a multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters, covered with a strong layer of oppression from society in general and sadistic men in particular. The women are rarely better than the men - they mostly hate each other with very little reason, and beat children for fun. The first story feels lifted from "The Joy Luck Club" - the daughter's life and position are secured by a well-timed suicide by her mother, coupled with a strong dash of superstition from the patriarch of the family and a desire to avoid a life-long curse. All the raw emotion and interesting characters have been stripped out, though, and events rarely seem to make much sense, such as having a young girl persistently trapped in sexual slavery in a brothel and yet always managing to remain a virgin, which is a common "have my cake and eat it too" mistake with authors. Also here is the cardinal sin of the precocious fairy child that is more civilized, wise, and grown-up than her age and circumstances would allow - five year old girls who spend their entire life locked in a small shed do not tidy house and sweep the corners, let alone know how to speak or interact with people - how could they? I really can't recommend this novel as providing any kind of deep insight into the culture it is claiming to portray. NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine. ~ Ana Mardoll

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Fai’s novel presents us with three women: the concubine (who barely makes an appearance before dying giving birth), her daughter Li-Xia, and Li-Xia’s daughter Siu-Sing. Set in rural China from the early 20th century to 1940, these women lead the hard lives of the poor and powerless. Horrible people seek to control their lives; fortunately, good people shelter them, teach them, and give them hope. All three women are intent on becoming scholars, not the playthings of men. In this place and time, Fai’s novel presents us with three women: the concubine (who barely makes an appearance before dying giving birth), her daughter Li-Xia, and Li-Xia’s daughter Siu-Sing. Set in rural China from the early 20th century to 1940, these women lead the hard lives of the poor and powerless. Horrible people seek to control their lives; fortunately, good people shelter them, teach them, and give them hope. All three women are intent on becoming scholars, not the playthings of men. In this place and time, it’s a hard road they travel. Custom, and bad people who would make a profit off them, are against them all the way. I must admit I’m torn about this book. One the one had, the details of life in China during the period of 1910 to 1940 are incredible. The world of the silk farms, the opium dens and the traders working out of Macao and Hong Kong are richly drawn. The foods, the colors, the smells, the textures are vivid. But the characters leave something to be desired. There are no shades of gray in this book. The characters are either all good or all bad. No villain has any redeeming qualities; no heroine has any doubts, character flaws or missteps. They stay on their chosen paths without ever wavering. No stopping for fun, no thinking it was all too much to deal with. The heroines are lucky, too, in that they have kind women to look after them, teach them and protect them. Pebble, the Fish, Ruby all devote themselves to the protagonists without regard for themselves. Li-Xia and Sui-Sing are, sadly, Mary Sues. Did I enjoy the book? Yes, I did. I have a great passion for Chinese history, and this novel brought certain aspects of that history to life. It was worth reading. Did I wish the characters were more rounded and complex? Yes, definitely.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dyana

    Wow - this was a book I couldn't put down - it was one of the most consuming stories I have read in a long time - highly recommended. (Altho, I am always highly amused to read the posted reviews - anywhere from 1 to 5 stars - it's true that we all have different tastes!!!) Anyway, the story is about three generations of Chinese women (Pai-Ling, Li-Xia, and Sui-Sing) who are all raised in the male dominated society of China during the early 1900s where women are treated as casually as unwanted ki Wow - this was a book I couldn't put down - it was one of the most consuming stories I have read in a long time - highly recommended. (Altho, I am always highly amused to read the posted reviews - anywhere from 1 to 5 stars - it's true that we all have different tastes!!!) Anyway, the story is about three generations of Chinese women (Pai-Ling, Li-Xia, and Sui-Sing) who are all raised in the male dominated society of China during the early 1900s where women are treated as casually as unwanted kittens. Pai-Ling is a traditional concubine sold to a cruel old farmer, Li-Xia is her daughter who outwits her father who wants to bind her feet and later sell her for a profit. Instead he sells her to a silk farm owner to be rid of her. Li-Xia's daughter is Sui-Sing. After her mother is hideously killed because of a rivalry between her father (an Englishman) and a triad tai-pan, Sui-Sing escapes as a baby (with help, of course) and is raised by an old woman and Master To who takes her on as his last disciple and teaches her the art of the White Crane (kung fu). This all takes place in China, Macao, and Hong Kong. I enjoy reading about the mysterious oriental culture, and this book fulfills this enjoyment. A good read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. At times the story did move a little slow, but over all this was a great book. I am glad that I have chance to read and review it. It starts with the story of Pai-Ling who is a concubine in the house of a man who already has 3 wives. She also has the bound lotus feet that men of that time found so attractive. When she gives birth to a daughter he takes the baby out to bury it alive and Pai-Ling kills herself. The father sees a fox fairy though and does not not kill the child he names Li-Xia. She At times the story did move a little slow, but over all this was a great book. I am glad that I have chance to read and review it. It starts with the story of Pai-Ling who is a concubine in the house of a man who already has 3 wives. She also has the bound lotus feet that men of that time found so attractive. When she gives birth to a daughter he takes the baby out to bury it alive and Pai-Ling kills herself. The father sees a fox fairy though and does not not kill the child he names Li-Xia. She is strong willed and wants to become a scholer like her mother wanted before her. She faces many hardships in her life ending with dying after she gives birth to her daughter Siu-Sing. She follows in her mothers footsteps being strong willed in a time when women were only suposed to be subserviant. She too learns to read and write both english and chinese. The story ends with her. I loved reading the stories of these brave, strong willed women. When most people whould have given up they didn't. I also learned many things about the Chinese culture that I did not know. I am glad that my feet were never bound to be lotus feet!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Chung

    Reviewed At : Mama Kucing Meow : The Concubine's Daughter by Pai Kit Fai Reviewed on : 13 February 2011 I love the first part of this book very much. Li-Xia's plight was very real and vivid. I was really depressed to read of the cruelty of the people against her. But the same cannot applies to the part of her daughter, Siu Sing. It seems so far fetch and like a scene out of those Hong Kong TVB Kungfu Drama where one go to learn martial arts up the mountains. As suddenly as she was whisked up the mo Reviewed At : Mama Kucing Meow : The Concubine's Daughter by Pai Kit Fai Reviewed on : 13 February 2011 I love the first part of this book very much. Li-Xia's plight was very real and vivid. I was really depressed to read of the cruelty of the people against her. But the same cannot applies to the part of her daughter, Siu Sing. It seems so far fetch and like a scene out of those Hong Kong TVB Kungfu Drama where one go to learn martial arts up the mountains. As suddenly as she was whisked up the mountain, she was also suddenly plunged into the art of erotic pleasure. The art of pleasuring men. Despite the so-so plot on the second part of the book, this books is still worth the read. The first part of the book is worth all the tears. Wonderfully written.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    I have to admit that I struggled to make it through 50 pages of this book before I put it aside. I’ve read and loved books many historical fiction books about the East including The Joy Luck Club, Tai Pan, Shogun, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, etc. but this one failed to engage me from the start. The characters were flat caricatures. I never felt I was fully inside any one before we switched to a different person’s POV. The historical details seemed to be jammed into the story, I have to admit that I struggled to make it through 50 pages of this book before I put it aside. I’ve read and loved books many historical fiction books about the East including The Joy Luck Club, Tai Pan, Shogun, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, etc. but this one failed to engage me from the start. The characters were flat caricatures. I never felt I was fully inside any one before we switched to a different person’s POV. The historical details seemed to be jammed into the story, as if it was written by a scholar anxious to pack it with information. Perhaps because I’ve read many other stories about China, the details about Chinese misogyny, and foot binding weren’t new to me, and weren’t interesting. I hated the old fart who opened the story, there was nothing original or sympathetic about him. I didn’t believe the concubine’s daughter acted true to her age and circumstances. It was difficult to accept that she could loosen/remove her foot bindings and no one noticed. Her fascination with her mother’s writing, and subsequent determination to learn to write felt forced. Although I didn't like the book I gave it two stars since I didn't finish it. I really wanted to like the story and write a thorough review of it, since St. Martin’s was kind enough to send me an advance review copy, but there are just too many other books out there for me to squander time with this one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    First off, can I say I love Li Xia & Siu Sing's names? I am Chinese too and I think Siu Sing (a Cantonese name if I'm not wrong) translates into Xiao Xing in Mandarin, literally Little Star. :D Anyway, I am very impressed by the quality of writing in this book. Pai Kit Fai has written a really spellbounding book, with detailed and beautiful (and sometimes ugly) descriptions of all the places and people, grand or dilapidated, beautiful or hideous, these three generations of strong women have been First off, can I say I love Li Xia & Siu Sing's names? I am Chinese too and I think Siu Sing (a Cantonese name if I'm not wrong) translates into Xiao Xing in Mandarin, literally Little Star. :D Anyway, I am very impressed by the quality of writing in this book. Pai Kit Fai has written a really spellbounding book, with detailed and beautiful (and sometimes ugly) descriptions of all the places and people, grand or dilapidated, beautiful or hideous, these three generations of strong women have been to or seen. It's quite a shame we didn't get to know much about Pai Ling, Li Xia's mother and Siu Sing's grandmother. (view spoiler)[She basically died just a few pages into the book. (hide spoiler)] To be perfectly honest, I detest all the evil, conniving people in the book, and it's REALLY hard to pinpoint which bad character I hate the most. There's just so many! I have to say I like Siu Sing's character more than her mother Li Xia's. Um, maybe because she is more spirited and lively compared to her prim and ladylike mom? Hehe. And so the reason why I gave this book only 4 stars is it was totally unjustified when Li Xia died. I calculated her age when she was so (view spoiler)[mercilessly and disgustingly killed by the horrible Chiang Wah. She was only 18! Ben had a worse fate after being totally destroyed when Li Xia died though, being all mutilated and all. (hide spoiler)] Overall, this is a wonderful book if you're interested in historical 20th century China stories.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is an epic story I couldn't put down spanning the lives of three generations of Chinese women. Pai Ling is sold to a spice farmer by a once prosperous family escaping Shanghai, but we barely get to know her as the story moves on to the life of her daughter Li-Xia. This part of the story at Ten Willows silk factory I loved the most and it really moved me, it could have been a book on it's own! The final part of the story sees the granddaughter Siu-Sing picking up the pieces to honour her fat This is an epic story I couldn't put down spanning the lives of three generations of Chinese women. Pai Ling is sold to a spice farmer by a once prosperous family escaping Shanghai, but we barely get to know her as the story moves on to the life of her daughter Li-Xia. This part of the story at Ten Willows silk factory I loved the most and it really moved me, it could have been a book on it's own! The final part of the story sees the granddaughter Siu-Sing picking up the pieces to honour her father the so-called 'Foreign Devil' Ben Devereaux. Beautifully written and well researched, Mr. Kit Fai has produced a wonderful story with unforgettable characters and images of a time gone by. The only reason I gave it four stars is because it gets a little too close to Crouching Tiger territory towards the end, hence the 'Red Lotus' name in the book. (Maybe the author should have stuck to the original title 'The Concubine's Daughter') Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in a great adventure set in the Far East. Am I the only male who has read this book?!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marthe Bijman

    Three words for this novel: Over. The. Top. Fai (the psuedonym of Geoffrey Morgan Pike) is a scholar of holistic medicine and a martial arts master, so he should something about Chinese culture. He probably does, but that did not translate into good writing in this case. This novel deals with three generations of Chinese women and every conceivable facet of Chinese life from 1906 to 1941. Unfortunately, Fai chose to feature the details that Westerners would find most juicy, sensational and drama Three words for this novel: Over. The. Top. Fai (the psuedonym of Geoffrey Morgan Pike) is a scholar of holistic medicine and a martial arts master, so he should something about Chinese culture. He probably does, but that did not translate into good writing in this case. This novel deals with three generations of Chinese women and every conceivable facet of Chinese life from 1906 to 1941. Unfortunately, Fai chose to feature the details that Westerners would find most juicy, sensational and dramatic, and packed them all into an over-rich melodrama – from foot binding and concubines, to noble sea captains rescuing tender Chinese maidens from fates worse than death. By the end I had had an overdose of long philosophical, poetic ramblings and excessive romanticism.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nicole P

    This book would have been great had the historical facts been accurate. I'm not usually one for historical fiction as it invariably annoys me when I pick up on things authors either missed or are misrepresenting. And that exactly happened in this book. I was hoping for a look into Chinese history in the 1900s but just got a mish-mash of everything and anything. And then there was the continuous rape scenes. Always by Chinese men. Because Westerns would never do such *rolls eyes* The author did h This book would have been great had the historical facts been accurate. I'm not usually one for historical fiction as it invariably annoys me when I pick up on things authors either missed or are misrepresenting. And that exactly happened in this book. I was hoping for a look into Chinese history in the 1900s but just got a mish-mash of everything and anything. And then there was the continuous rape scenes. Always by Chinese men. Because Westerns would never do such *rolls eyes* The author did himself no favours writing this book. Far too many historical blunders and eye rolling scenes to make it enjoyable or memorable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Micky Sahi

    I feel like reading this book again. It was one of my early deep stories.. so its very close to my heart..i remember I really liked the writing.. but then again it was post Enid Blyton and Dahl. So you never know. :p

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    I really enjoyed reading Red Lotus how the Chinese people believe and worship the different Gods I felt was quite magical and have put this in my bucket list to travel to the far east and see some of the wonderful temples Pai Kit Fai describes. This book holds you to the end.

  19. 5 out of 5

    ashley

    I promised myself 2019 I'd contribute & write more reviews, so here we are... a few points I absolutely must address: 1) Pai Kit Fai is actually a pseudonym name of sorts, except that it's legal -- the ex-pat formerly known as Geoffrey Morgan Pike is, surprise surprise, a white dude. Who really loves martial arts, traditional medicine, and his wife. Having moved to Hong Kong, he had to change his name BUT I find the use of the Pai Kit Fai name highly duplicitous in that it suggests cultural credi I promised myself 2019 I'd contribute & write more reviews, so here we are... a few points I absolutely must address: 1) Pai Kit Fai is actually a pseudonym name of sorts, except that it's legal -- the ex-pat formerly known as Geoffrey Morgan Pike is, surprise surprise, a white dude. Who really loves martial arts, traditional medicine, and his wife. Having moved to Hong Kong, he had to change his name BUT I find the use of the Pai Kit Fai name highly duplicitous in that it suggests cultural credibility to the book that would NOT be attributed to his other publishing name, Geoff Pike (HELLO! Proof positive that this was a marketing call) and not the strange white man's Orientalist fantasy that this actually turned out to be. But I digress. (Not to mention, this reminds me SO HARD of the Yi-Fen Chou debacle, where people try to benefit from the opportunities given to groups with lesser opportunities. 2) His language is not bad without being contextually considered. I found there were some really lovely sentences & turns of phrases. He is descriptive, maybe a bit flowery, but easy to ready -- even poetic... except that it's 100% written with the strange, opaque writing that someone outside of the Chinese culture might attribute to being traditonalist, i.e. 'Pavilion of Hidden Pleasures & Delight', so on & so forth. It focuses so much on this weird antiquated Hollywood perception of China that just leaves me absolutely baffled that someone might find this as... accurate? I'm not saying let's pretend foot-binding didn't exist, but just even the descriptions of the poor toiling farmworkers & silk-spinners are so crass compared to the dashing white saviors that seem to proliferate the romantic lives of the young Chinese women in this book. 3) There is a serious racial bent to this that is super unsubtle. It's like being hit over and over the head by a hammer that 'White people are great!!!' and 'Chinese people and their traditions are HORRIBLE, CRUEL SELFISH PEOPLE!!' There are no less than Two White Saviors for both of the primary women, a strong female rolemodel who is also White and... the rest are Chinese, depicted as rapists, cruel, disabled, simple-minded, &c. The list goes on. The White Men are rich, cunning, kind, insert any & all positive attributes here -- is this some sort of weird self-insert on behalf of the author??? -- while the Big Bad 4) There is an epic martial arts scene that settles all scores and has the tension of a gummy worm. There's an enormous to-do about two characters being the tiger & crane and it's just like... man, I just don't get it. You built up so much tension and it just went BLEH and also felt super out of place. Not to mention utterly unfair to the Big Bad Tiger. (view spoiler)[He's literally a disabled Chinese peasant who gets thrown to the side in favor of a pretty girl by the one man who has been a father figure his entire life... And then gets described thereafter as cruel & menacing when he... in all honesty... doesn't do much besides glower and veiled threats and blah blah blah. PROPHECIES.. (hide spoiler)] 5) For a guy who claims such close affiliation with Chinese culture, he really screws up naming conventions, nicknames, &c. It takes a quick Wikipedia look to figure this out. He couldn't spare that? OR MAYBE ASK HIS WIFE???? 6) All the main characters are soft, subservient Chinese women. Don't get me wrong -- he aids them with certain things that might set them apart. Literacy, martial arts prowess, &c. -- but when it comes down to it, these women are soft, gentle and define themselves entirely by their looks. Such as when (view spoiler)[the concubine in question jumps into the ocean after getting acid splashed on her face rather than show her husband (hide spoiler)] . Really? That's the best way you could write this woman out that we slogged 100+ pages for? Come ON. 7) As someone biracial, I was momentarily pleased & excited by the prospect of a Chinese-Caucasian relationship and then character in this era!!!!!!!! The relationship itself is pushed this way & that because of these realities and is probably one of the few marginally interesting items in this book, but the character itself is blah as the day comes. tl;dr: White orientalist fantasy full of white saviors, poor understanding of Chinese culture, demure & pitiful women who shoot themselves in the foot over stupid shit like Men without self-actualizing their dreams which IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE WHOLE POINT OF THEIR CHARACTER FROM WHAT IS WRITTEN BUT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT SHOWN THROUGH ACTION... read this if you need to get hysterical and witness a shitshow but otherwise don't open it up, don't think it accurate, don't don't don't

  20. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    It dragged began to drag near the end. I found my self scanning the page instead of actually reading the words so I could finish it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    This book is historical fiction set in China, but there is really no indication what the time period is. The book has beautiful descriptions of practically everything. Most people may not enjoy this, but I did. The writing style was average, and there were some interesting things I picked up, like the century egg. With a different story, I might actually have got immersed in the book. But in spite of good writing and some enjoyable descriptions, this book is not very believable. I don’t believe t This book is historical fiction set in China, but there is really no indication what the time period is. The book has beautiful descriptions of practically everything. Most people may not enjoy this, but I did. The writing style was average, and there were some interesting things I picked up, like the century egg. With a different story, I might actually have got immersed in the book. But in spite of good writing and some enjoyable descriptions, this book is not very believable. I don’t believe the author has done basic research. Otherwise he would know that you simply can’t ‘wriggle’ a bound foot free by shaking your toes. Also, if your foot is once bound, then releasing it is painful, so Lu Xian simply could not have blithely run along doing the stuff she did. The description states that the story starts with the birth of Lu Xian in 1906 (which is not actually mentioned in the story) but there are plenty of things that do not match this period. For instance, the reform movement started in 1912, and it would no longer have been illegal for women to learn to read if indeed it was so earlier. None of the young girls actually talk like young girls. Even girls who have seen much of life still behave like children and don’t suddenly become wise philosophers. Pebble annoyed me so much in this respect that I simply couldn’t stand her. There is also a major problem with how education is perceived. No one can learn to read without some kind of assistance, just by looking at alphabets, or as in this case, characters. And how on earth would a young girl (Pebble), who cannot possess books, and who would never have been taught to read or come across any kind of writing learn to read and write? I don’t buy the old uncle story. Why would any of these girls WANT to learn considering no one around them really considers education of much importance? None of this rings true to me, and this aspect of the story seems very forced. The characters are shallow and act without any motivations. For instance, why is the third wife nice to Xu Lian, while the others are nasty? It sounds like one of those fairy tales where the first son / wife is evil, the second one is tolerable and the third one is a goody two shoes. Sadly, I only managed to get through the first hundred pages – with great difficulty. Some of the conversations go on and on and on about the moon and about sex, and I don’t really want to read either.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara G

    DNF @ 13%. This book is just awful - racist Chinese stereotypes, blatant misogyny, and not much of a plot so far. Based on the reviews, it looks like I dodged a bullet by DNFing this one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This novel is my first goodreads giveaway win. I was very excited about this book arriving, however, I'm not sure it lived up to my expectations or the description provided. The first part of the story, about Li Xia, the concubine's daughter, I very much enjoyed. I know that many of the characters lacked depth or were too black and white, but there were moments of nuance and insight that helped to progress the story and the development of the main character. I couldn't help cheering for her, feel This novel is my first goodreads giveaway win. I was very excited about this book arriving, however, I'm not sure it lived up to my expectations or the description provided. The first part of the story, about Li Xia, the concubine's daughter, I very much enjoyed. I know that many of the characters lacked depth or were too black and white, but there were moments of nuance and insight that helped to progress the story and the development of the main character. I couldn't help cheering for her, feeling for her, and enjoying the fairy-tale like descriptions and story. The second part of the book, about Li Xia's daughter, Su Sing, I enjoyed, but not as much. I enjoyed the character, especially her determination and intelligence (inherited from her mother, of course). It is in the character of Su Sing that we see some of Author Goldman's Chiyo - a strong woman in a world of men who nonetheless carves her own path. Again the author told Su Sing's story with a hint of the fairy-tale, but this time there was an attempt at epic, martial-arts adventure. I'm not sure this mark was hit - the descriptions that made the first half enchanting became distracting from the purpose of Su Sing's story (ex: does it really matter what "skills" she learned at the opium house if they don't help her to escape and we never hear of them again?). About a third of the way through part two I found myself wondering when I would get through the book. I never ask this question if I'm truly enjoying a novel. Perhaps if the two womens' stories had been released as separate novels it wouldn't have seemed so tedious part way through Su Sing's story... If you want a book about Chinese footbinding and marriage arrangements, read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan; if you want a book about women's rights in China, read The Good Women of China; however, if you're looking for a fairy tale filled with hope and romance, then this book will suit you well.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I wish I could have had more of some parts of this book and less of others. The fact that this book is split up between two separate stories (that of the mother and that of the daughter) resulted in somewhat of a disjointed feeling. I think the author could have combined the two stories together into a more dynamic story line. I feel like she rushed through certain parts, leaving them with a half formulated feel, in an attempt to cram in a whole lot of unneeded “stuff”. With that said, there are I wish I could have had more of some parts of this book and less of others. The fact that this book is split up between two separate stories (that of the mother and that of the daughter) resulted in somewhat of a disjointed feeling. I think the author could have combined the two stories together into a more dynamic story line. I feel like she rushed through certain parts, leaving them with a half formulated feel, in an attempt to cram in a whole lot of unneeded “stuff”. With that said, there are certain parts of this book that show a wonderful literary capability. The scenes involving training in the martial arts paint a picture in your mind that rival that of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Probably my favorite part is when Red Lotus finally confronts the Forceful One. Not only is the scene artfully depicted, but it offers a breathtaking glimpse into the honor and pride that makes up Chinese civilization. Overall, a bit too much of a love story for my taste (which is not what I expected from the blurb, by the way), but still a decent enough read. The only thing really holding it back from being great is all the extra “stuff” crammed in, making it a little too long and drawn out to keep my full interest. Note: The version I received is not the fully edited version, so there are some minor typographical and grammatical errors that I am sure will be corrected before the final release. While I can usually look pass issues like this, there were a larger number than usual. I’m not trying to knock the publishers (I am sure they will have these corrected before the final release) but I would like to note that had a read the final version, I probably would have enjoyed the book even more. Regardless, I thought enough of the story to pass it on to a friend to read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chantelle Roberts

    I've always been interested in Chinese history and the corrupt way females were treated. So when I glanced at this title I was expecting a novel that was as heart breaking as "Memoirs of a Geisha." The book started off well, by how a baby daughter would be killed for not being a son. That part made obvious sense for that time and so did Pai-ling's death. But the story started getting more and more unrealistic by how Li-Xia seemed to always get out of complicated situations. She did thrive to make I've always been interested in Chinese history and the corrupt way females were treated. So when I glanced at this title I was expecting a novel that was as heart breaking as "Memoirs of a Geisha." The book started off well, by how a baby daughter would be killed for not being a son. That part made obvious sense for that time and so did Pai-ling's death. But the story started getting more and more unrealistic by how Li-Xia seemed to always get out of complicated situations. She did thrive to make the best of things from her intelligence. But really, half of it was "luck". From how Li got out of successful foot-binding and being beaten to miraculously being found by Ben. She seemed to have everything out of all of the three generations. There had to be some sort of problem though and of course that resulted in Li's death. Sing's story bored me the most. So the women of her family went from being scholars to warriors? Ignoring that fact, Sing's life was also very luck orientated. She ended up with Toby in this case, who was alot like Ben of course. Sing also followed the whole story line of her mother by how she seemed to ease her way out of lifetime contracts and find companionships. I was actually really annoyed when Ben was found out to have been hidden and he then died shortly after he and Sing finally bonded. What had happened if Li had left her baby with Ben? Things would have turned out a whole lot differently and I doubt that Sing wouldve been in danger due to Li's incident being learned from. The book was a major let down as I did not find the characters that interesting, they were too similar and the multiple story lines did not work for me. It was a good novel to pass the time though at least and some of the detail was nicely written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erin Clark

    The writing style of 'The Concubine's Daughter' did not move me but the description of this time of China's history did, especially if you are a woman. Being of the female gender myself I have to feel even more grateful that I live in this country (USA) in today's times. I would not have fared so well if I were living in China back then. Pai- Ling, the Concubine, her daughter, Li-Xia and her grand daughter, Siu- Sing are subjected to cruelty beyond imagination because they are women - or chattel The writing style of 'The Concubine's Daughter' did not move me but the description of this time of China's history did, especially if you are a woman. Being of the female gender myself I have to feel even more grateful that I live in this country (USA) in today's times. I would not have fared so well if I were living in China back then. Pai- Ling, the Concubine, her daughter, Li-Xia and her grand daughter, Siu- Sing are subjected to cruelty beyond imagination because they are women - or chattel as their father's, husbands and owners property. Tough stuff to get through. Each of these women are of strong spirit and manage to survive - for a time at least, despite severe adversity. The other characters in the book are rather stereotypical, the cruel father figure, the evil power hungry housekeeper, the dirty old man/lord of the house, the jealous vengeful wives and the kind old wise woman who cares for the concubine's daughter and granddaughter. The only decent men were either half white or all white - this did not seem fair to me. Were all Chinese men of the times all bloodthirsty brutes? Hopefully not, but we are only introduced to one who happens to be Sings teacher in the story. I enjoyed the history behind the story but not the the repetition of the brutality the three women had to go through. I think if the story had centered mainly on the granddaughter and her struggle it would have been a more desirable read. Despite my criticisms I did enjoy this book. It kept my attention and I learned even more about this time of China's culture and history. All in all I give it a thumbs up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dušica

    Kind of a strange structure. The book attempts to be a sweeping historical generational novel in the vein of something like The Thornbirds within the Australian literary canon, placed within the tumultuous Chinese colonial period, but takes some strange turns with hastily constructed tangents that are meant to link the historical periods. On a more personal level, some aspects of the characterisation are left a bit one-dimensional. There is a simple dichotomy of the goodies and baddies, the latt Kind of a strange structure. The book attempts to be a sweeping historical generational novel in the vein of something like The Thornbirds within the Australian literary canon, placed within the tumultuous Chinese colonial period, but takes some strange turns with hastily constructed tangents that are meant to link the historical periods. On a more personal level, some aspects of the characterisation are left a bit one-dimensional. There is a simple dichotomy of the goodies and baddies, the latter being relentless in their bitter pursuit of revenge. The writing style, especially in the first two thirds of the novel, is clunky, overflowing with adjectives that do nothing to advance the plot or develop character. The one redeeming feature is the last third of the novel, writing becomes more succinct and effective. Why parts one and two are so uneven is beyond me. I love interracial romance, but I must agree with the other reviewers saying the consistent theme of Asian women saved by Western men becomes a repetitive thread and sometimes patronising, in a very irritating colonial fashion. How Ben is considered Caucasian when apparently his mother was Chinese is beyond me. Also how Li Xia is considered Chinese and so was her mother, Pai Ling, but apparently Pai Ling had some Russian heritage, but was not considered Eurasian. I don't understand this. Is it just based on looks or upbringing? The main thing I got out of this was just how worthless women's lives were during that time. Very sad and brutal.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sorcha

    A novel set in China in the 1920s about Siu Sing, the daughter of a Chinese mother and the foreign devil ship's captain who rescued her from death. Raised until the age of twelve by an elderly Taoist sage who is master of the White Crane and trained as one of his last disciples, she is sold into slavery after he's assassinated. After spending her teenage years in an opium den, she begins a quest to find Ben Deverill, the father she never knew, and to reclaim her birthright. This book is split acr A novel set in China in the 1920s about Siu Sing, the daughter of a Chinese mother and the foreign devil ship's captain who rescued her from death. Raised until the age of twelve by an elderly Taoist sage who is master of the White Crane and trained as one of his last disciples, she is sold into slavery after he's assassinated. After spending her teenage years in an opium den, she begins a quest to find Ben Deverill, the father she never knew, and to reclaim her birthright. This book is split across two women: Li-Xia, who works her way from being the unwanted daughter of a wealthy man's concubine to the wife of one of the richest Eurasian men in Hong Kong, follwoed by her daughter - the "Red Lotus" of the title. Whilst parts of it were good, there was little tension or much to fear from the apparent enemies of women, despite Ben's apparent wealth and the hatred of mixed marriages etc all around them. Even the tension between Red Lotus and her "enemy" could have been a little stronger. One of her more minor enemies seems easily brought off with money and some implied blackmail, and is never heard from again - all secondary characters seem to easily disappear and be forgotten throughout the book. The above could give the impression this is a bad book - it's not, just not a great book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    There was a lot about this book I enjoyed: it was well-written and fairly engaging, but ultimately I think it failed in a lot of ways. The author's distaste for ancient Chinese society is in some ways tangible: I thought it was pretty uncomfortable that almost every Chinese man is portrayed as in some way evil, but meanwhile the Western men are all kind, gentle and loving. Many of the twists of fortune both women experienced seemed implausible and unnecessary, their "strength" is always emphasiz There was a lot about this book I enjoyed: it was well-written and fairly engaging, but ultimately I think it failed in a lot of ways. The author's distaste for ancient Chinese society is in some ways tangible: I thought it was pretty uncomfortable that almost every Chinese man is portrayed as in some way evil, but meanwhile the Western men are all kind, gentle and loving. Many of the twists of fortune both women experienced seemed implausible and unnecessary, their "strength" is always emphasized in words but in many ways they are both hapless, and their fortune, good or bad, is frequently dependent on the kindness (or lack thereof) of the people around them. Relatedly most of the characters were flat and black and white. I understand what Pai Kit Fai was trying to acheive here, I think: a commentary on how women were often left at the mercy of Chinese society, but I don't think this novel is much more than a flight of fancy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara Beresford

    I enjoyed reading this book because the subject of women/girls in China is really interesting to me. But I thought that, of all of the books I've read on this subject, this is the most poorly written. The characters are really one-dimensional, and there is a bunch of stuff that just doesn't make sense. The three generations of girls in this book speak/think in a manner totally inappropriate for their age. The author describes thoughts, conversations and actions of 7-10 year old girls that just w I enjoyed reading this book because the subject of women/girls in China is really interesting to me. But I thought that, of all of the books I've read on this subject, this is the most poorly written. The characters are really one-dimensional, and there is a bunch of stuff that just doesn't make sense. The three generations of girls in this book speak/think in a manner totally inappropriate for their age. The author describes thoughts, conversations and actions of 7-10 year old girls that just wouldn't happen. A case of an older woman taking sexual advantage of a young girl happens not once, but twice (two different generations). The martial arts focus of the third daughter is poorly described and takes the book into the supernatural without taking the opportunity to really explain it properly to the reader. Despite all that, it was a good vacation read because I looked forward to reading it each night. The story was historically compelling despite the author's not-so-great writing.

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