This is one of those books you just can't put down! I finished this at 2 AM Friday night, even though I needed to get up early the next day (quite reminiscent of the Nancy Drew 3 AM middle school readathons). This is not common for me.
This book would make an excellent gift. The reading is light and the story compelling. The characters and setting in a Hunan county in China during the 1800's is very interesting. It would be a great book for any female reader, including a middle school or high school reader (reading at their grade level, which is not common at all where I live). It would also be a book that I would highly recommend for a reading group discussion. There are discussion questions at the end, but I would not find any of these necessary in a meeting. This book needs no guidance into discussion!
There are many striking topics covered in addition to the rich social issues of Chinese culture. One topic that stood out distinctly for discussion is the life long relationship between female friends. The relationships, even in American culture, can be so strong that we also refer to each other as sisters or as Aunts (in the case of a strong bond between women of two different generations). However, in Chinese culture this was formalized in written contracts. Another topic I find interesting for discussion are the social ordering of people in Chinese culture compared to our own American culture. The Chinese culture is extreme in this era, as evident in the foot binding (another amazing topic for discussion), the education of the males vs females of this culture, the living arrangements of married women (ruled by their mother-in-laws outside of their natal home) and the strict requirements for respect and obedience.
I hope someone will tell me what they think of this book. What did you think?