The Concubine's Daughter

( 22 )

Overview

An epic, heart-wrenching story of a mother and daughter’s journey to their destiny.

Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coin. He smiled to himself, pouring fresh tea. And it would stop her from running away…

When the young concubine of an old farmer in rural China gives birth to a daughter called Li-Xia, or “Beautiful One,” the ...

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The Concubine's Daughter: A Novel

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Overview

An epic, heart-wrenching story of a mother and daughter’s journey to their destiny.

Lotus Feet. He would give his daughter the dainty feet of a courtesan. This would enhance her beauty and her price, making her future shine like a new coin. He smiled to himself, pouring fresh tea. And it would stop her from running away…

When the young concubine of an old farmer in rural China gives birth to a daughter called Li-Xia, or “Beautiful One,” the child seems destined to become a concubine herself. Li refuses to submit to her fate, outwitting her father’s orders to bind her feet and escaping the silk farm with an English sea captain. Li takes her first steps toward fulfilling her mother’s dreams of becoming a scholar—but her final triumph must be left to her daughter, Su Sing, “Little Star,” in a journey that will take her from remote mountain refuges to the perils of Hong Kong on the eve of World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1906 Southern China, newborn Li-Xia (Li) is nearly murdered by her elderly father because she is a girl, only to be saved by the specter of a fox fairy. Li lives in a rice shed mostly forgotten, as she wonders about her dead mother, who had been an educated concubine. After Li rebels against attempts to bind her feet, she is sold on her eighth birthday to a silk merchant and finds a temporary family among the female laborers while she dreams of learning to read and write. Capt. Benjamin Jean-Paul Devereaux rescues her by buying her freedom and safe passage on his ship, and she is able to fulfill her dream of literacy. They marry, defying societal norms, but in Hong Kong, Li is assaulted by an enemy of her husband, and fearing for her newborn girl, Siu-Sing, she has the child taken to safety in the mountains. Siu-Sing learns about her lineage and returns to face her own tribulations as WWII is about to begin. Fai's multigenerational tale has predictable elements, but is nonetheless an engaging and entertaining read. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312355210
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 405,506
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Drawing on years of immersion in traditional Chinese culture, medicine, and martial arts, PAI KIT FAI, who worked as a merchant marine, a writer, and a creative director for an advertising agency before marrying into one of Hong Kong's founding Eurasian families, delivers a mesmerizing tale of passion and courage in this, his first novel.

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Reading Group Guide

Concubines and Bondservants:A Historical Perspective

For centuries before the early 1900s, there was a prominent male domination in China. Women were deprived of all rights and were present mainly to serve men. Women served as slaves, concubines, and prostitutes. What follows is a brief social history of the Chinese custom of female enslavement as portrayed in The Concubine’s Daughter.

Although urban areas had seen progress in the condition of women’s lives—in the abolition of foot binding and in professional and educational opportunities—rural women were scarcely affected. Their vulnerability was due not only to a perpetuation of patriarchal values but also to the absence of economic opportunities, which maintained the time-honored role with which women were still associated—to do with domesticity reproduction, as well as sexual services. Thus patriarchal dicta, coupled with the demands for unpaid domestic labor for prostitutes and concubines, plus Chinese women’s lack of general economic independence, contributed to a disparate situation: While educated Chinese women clamored for political rights, women from the poorer social strata were still being sold into slavery.

Hong Kong was not only an entrepôt for inanimate goods between China and the rest of the world, but also for human beings. Girls of Chinese descent born in Singapore, in the Dutch Indies, in the Straits, and in Macao were brought to Hong Kong for profit; girls from Shantou, Shanghai, Tianjin, and the rural hinterlands were sold by way of Hong Kong to Southeast Asian markets. All these girls shared a background of poverty, whether rural or urban. Some girls could recall farms on which the whole family had eked out a living; perhaps at some stage the family lost its tenancy, drifted to the nearest city, and during the phase of alienation from what had constituted the family’s rootedness in social and moral values, the sale of a daughter would occur. Disassociation from a supportive context of kinship relations eroded many of the social inhibitions parents might have had in selling their daughters into an unknown fate.

In times of greatest desperation boys, too, were sold, mostly to be adopted; but this was the last resort and an admission of ultimate defeat. Girls, being by cultural definition “outsiders” in a patrilineal society, sooner or later to be married off to another family, went first. Patriarchal evaluation of the female sex, supported by the absolute authority of the pater familias to decide the fate of his family, provided for an obvious solution in times of material crisis: to sell the daughter, and grant the rest of the family at least a temporary respite.

At these times of crisis, parents, when parting with their daughters, were not always indifferent or callous to their fate. With the same reluctance but resignation in the face of an unrelenting fate with which families left their home villages to face an unknown future in search of a living, they may have resorted to the next step in a downward spiral of despair—offering their daughters on the market.

Excerpted with permission from Concubines and Bondservants: The Social History of a Chinese Custom by Maria Jaschok (© 1988, Oxford University Press, East Asia)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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(13)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    terrific historical thriller

    The Concubine's Daughter
    Pai Kit Fai
    St. Martin's, Sep 29 2009, $14.99
    ISBN: 9780312355210

    In 1906 on the Great Pine Spice farm in Southern China, septuagenarian farmer Yik Munn is outraged when his teenage concubine Pai Ling gives birth to a worthless female as she will one day bear sons for some other farmer. He sets out to kill his newborn Li-Xia. She survives due to the specter of a fox fairy scaring her father and his wives; which enabled her mother to leap through a window with her in her arms. Her mom died when she made the jump, but Li resides in a rice shed ignored by her father.

    When she turns eight, Li rejects binding her feet as demanded by her father who wants to increase her sale value. Rather than argue with her, he sells her to a silk merchant who puts her to work in the field while Li dreams of an education like her mom had so that she can read and write. English Sea Captain Benjamin Jean-Paul Devereaux buys her from the silk farmer and takes Li with him to Hong Kong. They marry and she has a child Siu-Sing, but her spouse's gruesome adversary assaults Li. To keep Siu safe, she is sent away, but years later as WWII explodes in Asia, she returns to her birth town seeking her roots, but the "Little Star" faces danger in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

    This is a superb first half of the twentieth century epic Chinese tale through the eyes of three generations of women trying to make it better for their offspring in a world in which females are sold like cattle. Each of the women is fully developed as is their society; but especially the second and third generations who heed the advice of Pai to gather their thousand pieces of gold. THE CONCUBINE'S DAUGHTER is a terrific historical thriller that provides profound insight into China during the first four decades of the previous century.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 17, 2013

    This is a wonderful historical thriller. Terrific story telling

    This is a wonderful historical thriller. Terrific story telling with a fabulous description of China during the first  half of the 20th century.This book is captivating. The author is terrific!. Loved it!. I highly recommended!             

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2012

    Superb! Highly Recommended!

    The author's description of China in the early 20th century; it's cities, ports and people, drew me in and wove a spell around me. The little heroine, Li Xia, will climb into your heart and stay there. A rich and colorful read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2010

    Must Read!!!I would love to see this book on Oprah's bookclub

    Wow, I loved this book so much I had to write a review( i never ever write these)...but if you're looking for a story that will leave you speechless...pick this one. The writer blends history with the character's lives so perfectly you learn so much about Chinese culture without even truning to wiki ;)...
    I sometimes forgot it was fiction and would think it actually took place, that in my books in perfect story telling...
    It's convincing is all I can say...loved it!!!
    Can't wait for any other books by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2010

    captivating

    It keeps your interest immediately.I couldn't wait to see what happens next to the main characters, especially Li. The author was very discriptive in culture rituals and customs. A very exciting book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2010

    Beyond expectation. I have enjoyed countless hours reading of Chinese and japanese culture, as portrayed by non-fictional writers. Perhaps an oxymoron,but you can not help to get a taste when some research has been done to write a story.

    I found this book by chance at Barns and Noble during one of my stroll throughs. The cover caught my eye, high lighting its obvious Chinese theme. Please, please, write again soon. I would rate your writings comparable to Lisa See and Arthur Golden. Such poetry and passion with a lovely dash of excusite poetic verse.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2009

    Enchanting read

    The author writes with a kind of passion that belies his gender...yes! he's a man! Guess I missed his dedication to his wife on the first pages, so finished the whole book not realizing he is a he. Hated to finish...loved the escape.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wow... one of the most riveting books I've read in years!

    I don't normally review books, but this one was so exceptional and so captivating that I have to share my feedback. When I first started to read it I thought it might be too esoteric for my taste, but it quickly turned into an incredible, historical novel written in some of the most beautiful prose ever. I can see why the author said it took 20+ years to research the book. A must-read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Top10 Worst Books

    Painful, predictable,
    why did I waste time and money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2010

    Disappointed

    Overall, I found the book disappointing; the story was all over the place and there were moments where I felt the author was thinking "what else can I throw in here?" I was really looking forward to reading this book when I bought it, and found myself progressively disliking the story and characters as I kept reading.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 9, 2012

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    Posted January 24, 2010

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    Posted February 28, 2012

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews

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