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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.
“Pauline Chen’s boldly imagined retelling of The Dream of the Red Chamber is a literary wonder. An epic yet intimate account of palace intrigue and political tumult that dazzles on every page. Heartbreaking, exhilarating, and impossible to put down.” —Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic
“Rarely does a cast of beloved literary figures from another culture and time come alive on the pages of a modern writer’s work. Pauline Chen has reimagined the characters from my very favorite novel to make a compelling new version of China’s great literary masterpiece. I highly recommend The Red Chamber It will transport you into an altogether new world.” —Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
“In Pauline Chen’s transporting interpretation of the Chinese classic The Dream of the Red Chamber, the byzantine machinations and behind-the-screen politics of the Jia family are so skillfully rendered as to bring to mind a delicate ink painting suddenly and vividly brought to life. A remarkable achievement.” —Janice Lee, author of The Piano Teacher
“The Red Chamber draws a memorable portrait of the Qing dynasty era, revealing a dangerous world of intrigue and secrets within the entrapping web of societal mores and manners. Written in a precise, cinematic style, Chen's novel brings this fascinating historical period to vivid life.” —Dan Chaon, author of Stay Awake
“Fans of historical fiction who appreciate resonant details, unexpected intrigue, and multigenerational plotting will find this work irresistible. With just the right blend of the highbrow literary and guilty summer pulp, Chen just might put this 18th-century classic on 21st-century bestseller lists.” —Library Journal
“A vivid portrait. . . . From the mighty heights to the depths of poverty and despair, the significance of female relationships, friendships, and rivalries are at the forefront of this compelling glimpse into an exotic time and place.” —Booklist
“A vivid, lively reimagining. . . . Despite their Eastern origins, Chen’s engaging heroines seem like direct descendants of the doomed, repressed women of classic Western literature.” —Book Page
“Leisurely. . . . Supple. . . . Chen often touches notes of emotional depth.” —Kirkus Reviews