Several years ago now, I snapped up this exotic, historical fiction, Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip, when it was being offered for free on Amazon (UK). However since then it has sadly lay neglected on my Kindle, even though I was excited to read it! That was until now, as taking part in the What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge encouraged me to finally pick it up.
On doing so I was swept back to China, at the turn of century, where young Xiang Xiang’s father is falsely accused of a terrible crime by a powerful war lord and is brutally executed. The dishonour forces her mother to enter a Buddhist nunnery, so Xiang Xiang is left in the care of a distant relative, who takes her to the Peach Blossom Pavilion. There she is well fed, clothed and schooled in music, literature, painting and calligraphy, but also, to her innocent surprise, the art of pleasuring men. For the beautiful Pavilion is in fact an elite house of prostitution. Now to repay all that care and training she must sell her skin and smiles to the filthy, rich chou nanrens.
From a sunny California apartment, this riveting story is revealed as Xiang Xiang, now an old lady, is questioned by her great-granddaughter and her fiancée about how she rose from a childhood of shame to become Precious Orchid: one of the richest, most celebrated Ming Ji or “prestigious courtesan” in all of China. And it is a tumultuous tale unlike any they’ve heard before… Filled with deceit, abuse, friendship, suffering, love, loss, politics, danger and daring escapes. Through it all though Xiang Xiang/Precious Orchid never gives up on her dreams to escape; be reunited with her mother; avenge her father’s death and find true love.
In Xiang Xiang/Precious Orchid the author, Mingmei Yip, has created a well rounded and believable heroine – I just had to feel for this sweet, naïve young girl, who through so much heartache and hardship grows into a clever, strong woman. Though there is a selfish streak to her, it was forgivable as it was a product of her treatment. And through her eyes Yip was able to beautifully evoke China of the 1900s and the life at the Pavilion, with its sensual silk gowns; mouth-watering food; traditional tea service; the opera, arts and festivals; faith and the start of western influence.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the exotic setting and heart breaking tale of Peach Blossom Pavilion. After reading this I would be interested in reading more by Mingmei Yip. Good read.
Have you read this? Or any other historical fiction set in China?
I have included this book in my What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge, as a title with a fruit or vegetable in it. (2/5)