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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish Date: November 25, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting--a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own."

My Two Cents:

"Secret of a Thousand Beauties" begins when Spring Swallow, a young woman living in China during the 1930s. She was promised to her mother's friend's son before she was born. He died at birth and now that Spring Swallow is of age, she must become a ghost bride where she will still be married to the son even though he is dead. Instead of a life with her in-laws that she barely knows, she decides to run away and is able to find shelter with a woman that she calls Aunt Peony who teaches her the skill of embroidery. This is the story of one woman's determination to control her own destiny during a time where it may seem like she has no choice in the matter.

I loved following Spring Swallow's journey. She is such a fascinating character and definitely one who lives many lives throughout the book, each one as interesting as the last. With Aunt Peony, she learns a skill that she will be able to use to carry her through the rest of her life. She falls in love with a revolutionary, who might care more about the revolution than he does her. And these are just two of the stages that she lives. I loved reading about where her desires took her. Although she is often limited in what she can do for herself by society, she finds a way to make it work.

The book is told from the perspective of Spring Swallow, which I loved. It really allowed me to fully immerse myself in the story. The storytelling style is simple but powerful. I loved all of the historical detail that the author chose to include. I did not know much about China in the 1930s at all so I really enjoyed getting to visit a new time and place through this story! Overall, this was a great historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed!


1 comment:

  1. What a pretty cover! And the story sounds like a good one! Thanks for sharing.


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