Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This book was given to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Embroidery--I don't know much about it, but this book showcases it for what it is: an ancient art form, and the way it wove into the narrative was skillful. Spring Swallow is a woman who has had more than her fair share of trouble, and when she runs away from a ghost marriage, she finds herself in the house of Aunty Peony, a cold, foreboding yet regal old woman who teaches her how to embroider.
There were many things I loved about this book--the setting, the characters, the pacing--but what I loved most was Spring Swallow: even at nineteen, she was a woman well-versed in tragedy, in desire, in hope. What sold this book for me was her transformation throughout: from a strong young woman, to an even stronger one? It's hard to explain, but I really loved the way that she chose to deal with the circumstances handed to her.
There's the other characters as well: Leilei, obsessed with fame and men, only caring about herself, Purple, the young woman who took pity on Spring Swallow and wants nothing more than love, Little Doll, 'kind of slow', but sweet and lovable nonetheless, and then there's Aunty Peony, mysterious and cold, and hiding all kinds of secrets. I didn't like either Leilei or Aunty Peony for most of the novel, but they were definitely human and flawed--real.
I liked the pacing of this book, too, I couldn't put it down! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful novel about embroidery, family, life and love--definitely worth reading! Next on deck: The Fire Seekers by Richard Farr!