Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip
Torn from her family. Destined to become the most desired courtesan in China. A seductive and evocative debut that opens the doors on life as a Chinese courtesan in the Peach Blossom Pavilion...Behind the doors of the pavilion, a world of sensuality and intrigue awaits...Falsely accused of murder, Xiang Xiang's father is executed, and her mother forced into a Buddhist nunnery. Xiang Xiang, alone and friendless at thirteen years old, is tricked into entering the Peach Blossom Pavilion, where she is given the name Bao Lan - Precious Orchid. There she is trained in the fine arts of womanhood, studying music, literature, painting, and more importantly, the art of seduction and pleasuring men; and becomes one of China's most successful courtesans. However, Precious Orchid is determined to avenge her parents and sets out on a journey that includes passion, adventure, danger, fame, and finally, her chance to achieve the justice she has sought so long. An enchanting tale of opulence and desire, perfect for fans of Anchee Min and Memoirs of a Geisha.
Xiang Xiang is 98 yrs old and writing her memoirs from a time when her name was Bao Lan meaning Precious Orchid. Her great granddaughter and her fiance are hanging on her every word waiting for her story of how she became one of China's most prestigious courtesans.
Xiang Xaing's father was wrongly accuses and executed for murder set up by a war lord to save his own skin. Thrown into poverty Xiang Xiang's mother goes to live in a Buddhist nunnery and at thirteen years old Xiang Xiang is given over to a distant relative Fang Rong to work in the house of a rich business man. What her mother doesn't know is that Fang Rong is the madam of a brothel and her young daughter will be taught how to be a prostitute in the Peach Blossom Pavilion.
One of the older prostitutes Pearl takes Xiang Xiang under her wing and they become blood sisters.
There are many twists and turns in this book and the violence Xaing Xaing suffered in the brothel was extreme.
The thought of finding the war lord and avenging her father's death and being re-united with her mother again is what keeps Xiang Xaing's spirit up through her turbulent life.
I started off liking Xiang Xaing, then half way through the book I started to loose sympathy for her mainly because of how she criticised the way the other girls looked. She was said to be one of China's most prestigious courtesans but I didn't feel that came across in the story.
I enjoyed this book and it was a page turner but I would have enjoyed it more without the many swear words and sexual phrases. A few I could have managed but the rest made me cringe, and the constant references to Jade Stalks and Precious Gates (male and female genetalia) seemed childish with the rest of the language.
I have read quite a few books about the same subject although some were set in Japan but this book is rawer and grittier, maybe the others have been sugar coated.
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