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Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Secret of a Thousand Beauties begins with quite an engaging biting humor on its narrative. It was just too funny! However, this promising tone gradually fell into a kind of pervasive somberness at which point, one may understandably drop the book or continue on for curiosity. I pushed on and was rewarded with such a dramatic and piercing story. It is a coming of age and at the same time almost a saga as it details the span of many years.

Set in 1930s China, our heroine, Spring Swallow, embarks on a hastened journey to independence to escape the unfair circumstance brought to her by tradition. Out of chance, her luck turns and yet perhaps only marginally better. We are then introduced to other secondary characters and one of them is the indomitable Aunty Peony whose past held secrets of her own.

The heartbreaking journey of Spring Swallow etched in my mind and lingered throughout that I imagined myself reading the book with a bowed head that I could no longer lift from the burden of sorrow. Sometimes, I have to put it down to escape a little relief. In this, Mingmei Yip portrays such sharp vividness of emotion I doubt anyone is left unmoved.

There are some beautiful prose here and there from the old Chinese literature. Parts of the Chinese history is weaved into the story of Spring Swallow, most especially the making of such fine garments of silk, embroidered and highly prized.

I did feel a prick of dismay on how Purple's story came to an end, It seemed to me quite ill fitting from her sweet premise with her playing a major turning point for Spring Swallow. Near the end, I longed for that engaging humor I found in the beginning to no avail and had felt that, may hap, it could have been a different book. Nevertheless, it doesn't give much shade to the real beauty of this book, unforgettable and definite.


Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting--a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
Genre: Historical Fiction, Cultural, Romance
Published: November 2014
Publisher: Kensington
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ ( 4 cups - A coming-of-age sweeping drama and the wonders of crafting beautiful things.)


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