Secrets of a Thousand Beauties
Kensington, Nov 25 2014, $15.00
Years before she or her fiancé were conceived, Spring Swallow was engaged to the son of her mom’s BFF if one had a boy and the other a girl. As she turns seventeen, her mother and her future mother-in-law enforce the zhifu weihun ancient marital tradition though Spring Shallow finds that ghastly as her soon to be husband died before he was born.
On the day she is to “exchange” vows with her “ghost”, a horrified Spring Swallow runs away. Martinet Aunty Peony finds her and employs her along aside other females with depressing backgrounds at her Su-style embroidery shop. Spring Swallow struggles to adjust to the strict rules enforced even much more than usual to insure they complete a Peking order in six months. When she can she mountain climbs where she falls in love with Shen Feng; and learns what she can about her “mentor” including Aunty was a royal embroiderer before the Revolution two decades earlier. When she loses her position, Spring Swallow obtains work at an embroidery store and soon marries the owner’s son. When she suffers a miscarriage losing Shen’s baby, her irate husband’s family tosses Spring Swallow out. Missionaries give her a home and a priest his love.
Though there are too much happening to the heroine especially several fortunate and tragic events in a short period, this is an entertaining 1930s Chinese drama due to an energetic heroine who “The record shows (she) took the blows and did it (her) way” (My Way by Frank Sinatra). Filled with captivating insight like the zhifu weihun ghost marriage, Mingmei Yip authors another delightful historical (see The Nine Fold Heaven and Peach Blossom Pavilion).