– It starts out like a rather dar, uneventful, linear diary spiced with an occasional mystical dream of the main protégé, Bayou, an early teenage boy growing into young adulthood during the story.
he particular of his year and the ays of a host of other main characters, mostly his relatives, are given in obsessive, almost painful details.But dear Reader, don ’ t be ooled by this slow start!
Anothe story branched out into several exciting subplots only to be masterfully reunited in the final chapters.The Jia is an old, noble family in the middle period of the Qing-Dynasty China.
The extra dimension of their personalities makes these characters ven more intimate and accessible to the reader.One thing I particularl enjoyed in thi nove was learning about the variou elements of the Qing Dynasty China interwoven in the story: the arranged marriages; concubines; the “ dowager ” cult – incidentally this latter largely contributed to the fall of China during Emperor Dowager Cixi ’ s regency-; the bizarre look at suicide as an accepted and in fact frequently expected solution to life ’ s shortcoming; Chinese Medicine with its reliance on pulse evaluation; the system of feudalistic servants whose status was not much different from slaves but who could become highly valued members of the families – in thi book represented by Xiren and Pinger-; the influence of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism on every day life; the role of Chinese Opera in Chinese culture; the significanc of jade in Chinese spirituality; etc.One peculiarity that stood out for me in ook is the physical and psychological fragility of the Jia clan members.
I an see that many potential readers will get discouraged to start or continue reading he book especiall after overcoming their reluctance due to the formidable page number.
To such potential readers I would advis reading one of the abridged versions readily available in popular bookstores.