Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peach Blossom Pavilion-Mingmei Yip

Peach Blossom Pavilion
Mingmei Yip
Kensington, May 27 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220141

In 1918 China Xiang Xiang’s father Baba is accused of a crime, convicted, and executed; throughout he swore he was innocent; his crime was being righteous while “meddling in rich men’s business”. He left behind his beloved daughter and his wife, Xiang’s mom, but the disgrace forced the older female survivor to enter a Buddhist nunnery in Peking and to “sell” her daughter due to the machinations of a distant relative Fang Rong who conned the grieving widow.

With no options the teenage virgin enters the Peach Blossom Pavilion. Owners Fang Rong and Wu Qiang see the young girl as a valuable commodity as virgins sell well in a bidding war although the newcomer treats them like honored parents. Still Precious Orchid as she is now called hopes to earn enough money to leave and to one day learn who set up her beloved father. Over time with the help of her best friend Pearl, she adapts and soon becomes the most poplar courtesan. Richard Anderson for instance enjoys chatting with the intelligent Precious Orchid and also enjoys listening to her play a musical instrument. Ultimately he offers her marriage, but will tainted Precious Orchid say no thank you or will innocent Xiang say yes.

This is a fascinating historical biographical fiction that grips readers from the moment Xiang Xiang explains what happened to her parents and never slows down as she relates her life story to her granddaughter in California (and to the audience). The Chinese social system of the early twentieth century encourages avarice and corruption; something Precious quickly learns to manipulate for her personal gain. Her vow is not to repeat her father’s mistake of righteousness, but to use her innocence as a tool to live the good life paid for by the same affluent types who murdered her father. Fans will admire Xiang as she does what she has to do, not to just survive, but to live a luxurious pampered life; will she give it up for Richard?

Harriet Klausner

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