The Red Chamber by Pauline A. Chen

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Synopsis

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.

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. 


This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
 

About Pauline A. Chen

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Pauline A. Chen earned her B.A. in classics from Harvard, her J.D. from Yale Law School, and her Ph.D. in East Asian studies from Princeton. She has taught Chinese language, literature, and film at the University of Minnesota and Oberlin College. She is also the author of a novel for young readers, Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas, and lives in Ohio with her two children.
 
Published July 10, 2012 by Vintage. 496 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Red Chamber

Kirkus Reviews

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The fates of three women dominate: Daiyu, whose mother turned her back on her Jia family heritage;

Jul 13 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

Publishers Weekly

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and matronly18-year-old Xue Baochai, an earnest shadow of a girl in love with Baoyu, Daiyu's charming cousin—Chen (Peiling and the Chicken-Friend Christmas) plumps the epic tale full of lavish details of the palace, sumptuous feasts, and day-to-day minutiae, levitating whispered conversations o...

Aug 13 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

Washington Independent Review of Books

Using the proverb “Women hold up half the sky” as his slogan, Mao Zedong launched a movement to raise the status of women in China shortly after the Communists took power in 1949.

Jul 16 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

The Columbus Dispatch

Chen’s attention to the details of domestic life — food, clothing, makeup, housing arrangements, entertainment and medicine — immerses the reader in the life of the household.

Jul 08 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

Bookmarks Magazine

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.

Jul 24 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

The Coast

(Such women, used to provide whatever a man’s wife cannot, are referred to disdainfully as having been ‘born in the wrong bed’, though they are hardly devoid of power.) Deference and silence are demanded, but as selfish as Chen’s men can be, the women of The Red Chamber never suffer so much as ...

Aug 10 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

The Booksellers New Zealand blog

She does this by skilful reworking of the original story, using the three major women as the pivotal characters in a truly fascinating work.

Sep 04 2012 | Read Full Review of The Red Chamber

Reader Rating for The Red Chamber
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