The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society by Kathryn Harrison
A Novel

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Synopsis

In poised and elegant prose, Kathryn Harrison weaves in The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society a stunning story of women, travel, and flight; of love, revenge, and fear; of the search for home and the need to escape it. Set in alluring Shanghai at the turn of the century, The Binding Chair intertwines the destinies of a Chinese woman determined to forget her past and a Western girl focused on the promises of the future.

Beautiful, charismatic, destructive, May escapes an ar-ranged marriage in rural nineteenth-century China for life in a Shanghai brothel, where she meets Arthur, an Australian whose philanthropic pursuits lead him into one scrape after another. As a member of the Foot Emancipation Society, Arthur calls on May not for his pleasure but for her rehabilitation, only to find himself immediately and helplessly seduced by the sight of her bound feet. Reforming May is out of the question, so love-struck Arthur marries her instead and brings her home to live with him, his sister and brother-in-law, and their two girls, Alice and Cecily. In Alice, May sees the possibility of redemption: a surrogate for a child she has lost. And it is to May that Alice turns for the love her own mother withholds. But when the twelve-year-old is caught preparing her aunt's opium pipe, she is shipped off to a London boarding school, far from the dangerous influence of the woman who will come to reclaim her and to control the whole family.

The Binding Chair unfolds among scenes of astonishing beauty and cruelty, in a lawless place where traditions and cultures clash, and where tragedy threatens a world built on the banks of unsettled waters--from the bustling Whangpoo River to the lake of blood in the Chinese afterworld. By turns shocking, exquisite, and hilarious, The Binding Chair is another spellbinding literary triumph by the writer whose work Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times has called "powerful and hypnotic."


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Kathryn Harrison

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Kathryn Harrison has written the novels Thicker Than Water, Exposure, Poison, The Binding Chair, The Seal Wife, and Envy. Her autobiographical work includes The Kiss, Seeking Rapture, The Road to Santiago, and The Mother Knot. She has also written a biography, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and, most recently, a book of true crime, While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family. She lives in New York with her husband, the novelist Colin Harrison, and their three children.
 
Published June 29, 2011 by Random House. 336 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society

Kirkus Reviews

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An engrossing tale contrasting the lives of a young Caucasian and her Chinese stepaunt.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Binding Chair; or, A Visi...

Publishers Weekly

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As she demonstrated in Poison, Harrison renders historical settings with textured fidelity. Here she spins an exotic and irresistible tale set mainly in Shanghai at the turn of the last century, with

Apr 03 2000 | Read Full Review of The Binding Chair; or, A Visi...

Star Tribune

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"Tell me how you never cried out," Yu-ying said, "Say the words, I never cried out."

Apr 29 2000 | Read Full Review of The Binding Chair; or, A Visi...

Entertainment Weekly

Kathryn Harrison, best known for The Kiss — the 1997 memoir about her consensual affair with her father — here delivers a shrewd, gritty, gorgeously written novel about Chinese foot binding.

Jun 02 2000 | Read Full Review of The Binding Chair; or, A Visi...

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