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 facades, 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. In this dazzling debut, Pauline A. Chen draws the reader deep into the secret, exquisite world of the women's quarters of an aristocratic household, where the burnish of wealth and refinement mask a harsher truth: marriageable girls are traded like chattel for the family's advancement, and to choose to love is to risk everything.
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by Kay-Yut Chen, Marina Krakovsky
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"In the Beijing mansion of the noble eighteenth-century Jia family, three women strive to find satisfaction amid the varied challenges of their competing lives. Narrator Grayce Wey's lilting voice provides a silky musicality to the lyrical narrative, and her nimble pronunciation of Chinese names is a gift to the Western listener. Wey portrays Wang Xifeng, who runs the wealthy estate, with shrewdness and a sharp tongue, both of which are intended to hide her disappointment at having failed to produce an heir. When orphaned and penniless Daiyu joins the luxurious household, Wey reveals her apprehensions, as well as the reticence of cousin Baochai, whose status in the family is ambiguous. Using a stilted tone for the dialogue, Wey depicts the stiff formality of a refined culture. N.M.C. (c) AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine"
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