After her mother’s death, eight-year-old Yunxian is sent by her emotionally as well as physically distant father to live with her grandparents, who are both physicians. There she meets Meiling. Yunxian and Meiling, whose mother is a famous midwife, develop a lifelong friendship, the bonds which cannot be broken by physical and social distance.
The author’s meticulous research into the lives of upper-class women, including wives and concubines, as well as middle and lower class women, was evident on every page. The writing was spectacular; descriptions of locations and conversation placed me right in the middle of the situation. The characters’ personalities were written so that a whole person, good and bad, was revealed. I learned so much from this book. I had heard and seen pictures of an empress with bound feet on her throne, but knew nothing of the tortuous process or why it was desirous and limited to the upper class. Having worked in healthcare for over 40 years, the information on illnesses and their treatments with traditional Chinese medicine was of particular interest to me. I was amazed that in the midst of yin and yang that the diagnosis was accurate, and portions of the treatment was much like current therapy. The description of the diagnosis and treatment of Yunxian’s mother-in-law’s cough will stay with me for a long time.
Usually, I can find something that makes a book less than a 5 on a scale of 0-5, but not with this book. Like its cover, it is a gorgeous book that I highly recommend. As soon as it is published, I am recommending this novel to my book club.