Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review, Trailer, & Giveaway: Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip!

Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Pub. Date: November 25th 2014
Source: Author

Book Description via Goodreads:

Set against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip's enthralling novel explores one woman's defiant pursuit of independence.

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.



"A unique and enthralling style…flawless." –Baltimore Books Examiner on The Nine Fold Heaven

"Surprising and often funny….Part epic, part coming-of-age story, part modern fairy tale." --Publishers Weekly on Song of the Silk Road

"A serious, engaging story of faith, devotion, and the commingling of cultures." –Booklist on Petals From the Sky

About the Author:

Mingmei Yip was born in China, received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University in Hong Kong. She's published five books in Chinese, written several columns for seven major Hong Kong newspapers, and has appeared on over forty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, and the U.S. She immigrated to the United States in 1992, where she now lives in New York City.



This book is beautiful. It lingers with you even after you've finished, set it down, and walked away. In part this is because of the plot, in which the main character Spring Swallow escapes her fate as a ghost bride after her arranged-to-be-husband's demise. This sadness, this ghost haunts the overall tone of the book, giving each layer of beautiful prose a melancholy undertone. But this book also stays with you because of the rich detail that's put into the writing. Like Yip's other books, there's something almost song-like about the way this was written.

Secret of a Thousand Beauties is a book that comes off as well informed. I learned quite a fair bit about the art of embroidery in this book, which is something that I have no shame in saying that I knew absolutely nothing about. In addition, it blends this old tradition with the cultures of China. It was fascinating to read about their daily lives and traditions and customs as I navigated along Spring Swallow's journey.

It sucks you in from the beginning with its alluring use of language and the shroud of mystery that hangs over it all. The more you read, the more characters you meet who have secrets of their own. You cannot help but to continue to read in the hopes that you'll discover all of them, and what makes them act as they do.

I recommend this book to anyone who has an appreciation for art, historical settings, Chinese culture, or beautiful, poetic prose. Thank you to Mingmei Yip who gave me a copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.


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  1. I loved Pearl Buck's masterpiece The Good Earth. It's very accessible, if anyone hasn't read it yet they should give it a look. Thanks.

    1. I haven't even heard of that one, I'll be sure to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. The history in this one appeals to me as well as the culture. I love learning about cultures.
    I love the Aunty Lee stories, for Chinese-American themes, but have not read enough of that culture to really give mentions.
    Thanks for the great giveaway!

    1. I love learning about cultures too, and I'm the same way- I haven't read nearly enough Chinese literature. Actually that's what drew me to Yip's books in the first place. I really recommend one of her other books too, Skeleton Women. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

    2. Thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely check it out!

  3. I know for certain that I need this book, and all of Yip's books. The covers are all exquisite and I love the sound of each of them.

    1. They are pretty gorgeous on a shelf together. I'm lucky that the three I own are all physical copies.