Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
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 Goodreads.com: "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.
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