Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway. Thanks to Kensington Books for the book. The expected publication date is November 25, 2014.

First impressions

Look at the beautiful cover!! I will be honest with you today and say the first reason I had to ask for this book was the cover. And then I saw that the book takes place in China during the 1930s when a lot of contrasting situations were taking place. For example The Nationalist party with the end of the Warlord era while on the other side you have people still clinging to the overthrown Qing dynasty and their ancient traditions. Mingmei Yip tells the story of Spring Swallow, a young woman who seems to be marked with bad luck very early on. The author sets such a beautiful backdrop of the changing China and a changing woman determined to not letting her fate to be determined by others.

Final thoughts

This was such a sad book to read. Poor Spring Swallow couldn't catch a break! Promised in marriage before she was born, she is forced to become a ghost bride, which means marrying the spirit of her promised dead fiancé. Forced by tradition to take a path like this she decides to run away. She joins a group of embroiders, lead by Aunty Peony. All of the girls seem to have miserable pasts, but is Aunty Peony who becomes a mystery since she won't talk much about herself, only order and teach the girls.

But the pain in Spring Swallow won't end after she escaped. She will love and lost again, not only lovers but friend and family. And through it all we see China changing bit by bit and I think the voice of Spring Swallow was really well adjusted to see these changes as a foreign. Since she was accustomed to her ways of a tiny village, she discusses the changes and the implications of them.

The book has a slow pace but this is not necessarily a bad thing when the subjects discussed are foreign for the reader; it allows terms and notions to set in and then to concentrate on the story itself. I loved the dynamics between characters; they were well constructed and read nicely and so the outcome between each character was well rounded at the end.

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