Cover Image: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

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Member Reviews

I read any historical fiction based in Asia - and Lisa See is the master in this genre/subject. I was first intrigued with the time/age of Lady Tan's Circle of Women - the 1400-1500s China. What a world it was and like any great historical fiction novel - this book made me curious to find sources about China during this time period. 

One of my favourite things about Lisa See novels are the conflict and emotion between characters. The depth and vividness of the interactions and emotions grabs you into whatever time period/scenario she is writing about.

Highly recommend this book for any historical fiction readers. Read about a time and place you absolutely have not read about before!

Thank you Netgalley for providing an Arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Lisa See is really a master at historical storytelling. Her characters are compelling and their stories affecting.  This is a world where a woman's worth is seen wholly in what she can bring to her husband and his family, how she presents herself and serves the edification of his family name, that she bear sons, that she work to elevate their status. Our main character is smart and had hoped to be able to both practice her healing techniques as well as be a boon to her husband's family. But we come to understand that both his father and mother are completely against it.

See is dedicated to representing the world as accurately as possible, from the practice of foot binding to how it changes the very anatomy of the lower body to the imperial exams for elevation and placement to how men are able to collect concubines and use them as they see fit. The feelings of uneasiness, anger, sadness that she is able to evoke in her readers means she has been able to capture the atmosphere and cultural significance exceptionally well.
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Ever since reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I have anticipated each novel by Lisa See and her poetic tellings of Asian history and culture. 

Her latest novel, Lady Tan's Circle of Women, is based on the true story of a female physician in 15th century china. After the death of her mother, Yunxian is sent to live with her grandparents, both are whom are medical practitioners. They teach her their craft as well as how to live properly as a woman of her station. Unfortunately, she learns, after her arranged marriage, that those two things don't necessarily go together. How can she be true to her training and still be a respectful daughter in law? How does one woman go on to change the course of medical practice in her country, developing techniques and remedies that will long outlive her? 

This is a rich telling of womanhood, class, struggle for independence and self, friendship and marriage in Chinese culture. The details See manages to capture not only tell the story but educate. I was fascinated with the details she shared about the marriage bed (the physical bed with it's compartments and carvings), the dress, the compound in which they lived and, especially, the medical treatments with all their unique reasonings and developments. The Ming dynasty came alive on these pages. 

I loved it all.
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Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women ian my favourite book by Lisa See but I appreciate the research that was required to write this book. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with the characters.
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Another really moving historical fiction novel about two Chinese women and their lifelong friendship/companionship. One a higher born/classed woman and the other an apprentice midwife. I really enjoyed learning about Chinese midwives during this period. 

Great on audio narrated by Jennifer Lim and Justin Chien (although I did find it hard at times to identify when the story switched from each woman's POV). This is definitely a new favorite by Lisa See. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early digital copy in exchange for my honest review!
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3.75 stars

Lisa See is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I love how she highlights the stories of female friendships and familial bonds. In <i>Lady Tan's Circle of Women</i>, See introduces us to Tan Yunxian, an elite class woman growing up in 15th Century China. After her mother passes, Yunxian is raised by her grandmother who teaches her medicine. From there we learn how Yunxian's pursuit of medicine is hindered by what others expect of her as a woman. Medicine is otherwise left up to male doctors who sit behind screens when they treat female patients and rely on an intermediary to relay messages to their patients. 

Meiling is a widwife of lower social status and Yunxian's closest companion. They grow close as children but drift apart as they grow older. Personally I was not convinced that Meiling grew out of her envy of Yunxian which made me care less for her as time went on. Not the strongest depiction of female friendship by See but it still provided great insight into female physicians of the time.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the eARC.
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Yunxian is born into an elite family, and at a young age loses her mother. She goes to live with her grandparents and there she begins to learn to become a doctor, in the practice of Chinese medicine. She specializes in the illnesses and maladies of women. But when she is arranged to marry into another family her mother in law wants to hold her back from practicing medicine and just becoming the perfect wife who mothers sons, and act proper. Lady Tan finds a way to practice her knowledge, and help women around her, save lives, and foster relationships and friendships with other women of different classes. 

This was a very moving and beautiful novel, the power Lady Tan had was inspiring. It was such a fascinating insight to how life was during the Ming Dynasty. I learned a lot about the culture of foot binding, what medicine was life, family dynamics, and superstitions.
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"Whether animal or woman, we are man's possessions. We women exist to give him heirs and feed, clothe, and amuse him."

This was my first book by Lisa See, and wow - this story infuriated me, it touched my heart and gave me a whole new respect for what women in China have endured throughout history.

Lady Tan's Circle of Women is based on the true story of Tan Yunxian, a woman doctor in the Ming dynasty of 15th-century China who published a book of her formulas and medical cases that are still being used in traditional Chinese medicine today.

The story highlights how women's roles were such to serve, listen, and obey men. The beauty standards of the day also dictated that they deform their feet with foot binding in order to fascinate and please men -- All of this I found incredibly hard to read about.

I loved all of the female characters: their camaraderie, friendship and all of the themes of women helping women.

I so enjoyed the writing, learning about 15th Century China and reading about some of the real-life cases reflected through this fictional story. Incredibly well-researched.

I can't wait to read more of Lisa See's work.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨️ for me.

"Friendship is a contract between two hears. With hearts united, women can laugh and cry, live and die together."

Thank you so much to @simonschustersca for the #gifted digital copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.
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Read if you like: family saga, based off of real historical figures.
The book follows Tan Yunxian, inspired by the true story of this historical figure. She grows up in a wealthy family during the Ming Dynasty of 15th century China. We follow her as she grows into a young woman and marries into a wealthy family, and then as she grows into a prominent female doctor. 
I loved reading about Lady Tan and 15th century China. She was so interesting and the historical detail in this book was superb. I appreciated the glimpses into family life and customs during this time period and Lady Tan was an amazing figure to learn from. I highly recommend this book.
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I really enjoyed the time period this was set in (16th-century China) & reading about the medical practices at that time. I found it very interesting, as well a viewing how life was for a woman in that period! 
You could tell there was a LOT of research put in to this book, which I loved, but at the same time, sometimes it was just too much information to take in or remember. It felt too’ wordy’ at times, which I know is a dumb way to explain a book. Also…the foot binding scenes. Argh, that was hard to handle.
I think this would be a good pick if you’re looking for an interesting historical fiction read!

Thank you Simon & Schuster Canada for an advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review. This is on sale now!!
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Based on the true story of a women's doctor in 15th century China, author Lisa See has written a mesmerizing story of a truly brave woman. Lady Tan Yunxian studies medicine from a young age with her grandparents and uses this knowledge throughout her life to help women suffering in a time when doctoring for them was not common. Well written fiction from an amazing author, recommended reading.
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In this novel, Lisa See imagines the life of Tan Yunxian who lived during the Ming dynasty and wrote a collection of medical cases.  Her Miscellaneous Records of a Female Doctor is the earliest known book written by a female doctor in China and is still available.  See used actual cases from this book as a type of framework:  she creates events to explain how Tan Yunxian might have been able to treat women from various social classes.  

We first meet Yunxian in 1469 when she is eight years old.  Born into a wealthy, educated family, she is taught the principles of Chinese medicine by her grandmother, one of the very few female doctors in China at that time.  The focus of her instruction is the health issues of women since “A male doctor may not see or touch a female patient.”  Yunxian’s grandmother encourages her granddaughter’s friendship with Meiling, a midwife-in-training.  Since a doctor should never touch blood but a midwife is in regular contact with it, the two can work together, especially when a woman is in labour.  

Once Yunxian is married, her mother-in-law forbids her from practicing medicine or seeing Meiling.   Confined within the walls of family compound, she is expected to give birth to sons.  She struggles to free herself of these restrictive traditions so she can help women.

The reader learns a great deal about the lives of women in elite families.  Restrictions on their activities are numerous; unlike women like Meiling who belong to the lower classes and have considerable freedom, privileged women are not allowed to leave the women’s areas in the family compound.  Of course the tradition of footbinding limits the mobility of women.  (The descriptions of the process will leave the reader cringing.)  Hours are spent mastering feminine skills like embroidery.  I loved how Yunxian mentions that many of women’s conditions “’are affected by the different types of anger we women must hide from our husbands, mothers-in-law, and concubines.’”  Considering the obedience and sacrifices required of women, this anger is understandable.  

A major theme is the importance of female friendships.  Yunxian’s grandmother says, “’”Friendship is a contract between two hearts.  With hearts united, women can laugh and cry, live and die together.”’”  In a male-dominated world, “’It’s important for women – and girls – to find friendship and steadfastness where they can.’”  Though they are from very different backgrounds, Yunxian and Meiling become life-long friends.  They have times when they are separated by physical and emotional distance, but in the end, both would agree that “’”Life without a friend is life without sun.  Life without a friend is death.”’” 

Readers of well-researched historical fiction will certainly enjoy this book; it entertains as it provides information about cultural practices unknown to many.  The addition of a mystery will also appeal.  I especially enjoyed the death investigations, as will anyone interested in forensics.  There is much to recommend this novel.
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I was lucky enough to receive an arc of Lisa See’s latest novel to review. See has long been one of my favourite novelists so I was very excited for this one.

This novel tells the story of real life female doctor Tan Yunxian overcoming the challenge of practicing as a woman in 15th century China, when this was not at all a usual path for a woman. The story uses Tan Yunxian’s actual book, Miscellaneous Records of a Female Doctor as inspiration for the kind of cases she would have encountered. Readers follow her through all her stages of life from milk days, through hair-pinning days, rice-and-salt days to sitting quietly. I would have actually liked more in the sitting quietly section, when Tan was said to have created truly revolutionary remedies, but sadly not much is known from her life after her book was published in her 50s.

See’s research on this was absolutely incredible, which she generously shared with readers in an extensive afterward. Absolutely recommend this unique and important work about an early female doctor.
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Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

By Lisa See

This historical novel is inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th century China.

Lady Tan Yunxian learns medicine from her grandmother, but the class expectations must be followed. 

I really enjoyed the various relationships between the women and found all the characters very interesting . Overall, I believe this to be a great story about women helping women. 

I didn’t enjoy the foot binding and all that it entailed, but it could not have been an authentic depiction of the times, without that having been mentioned .

Thank you to @netgalley and @simonandschustercanada for the advanced reading copy, in exchange for an honest review. 

This book comes out today 06/06/2023.
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Tan Yunxian is a famous female doctor in Chinese history. She was born in a medical family, studied medicine under the guidance of his grandmother since he was a child, and entered the Royal palace as an female doctor  to treat diseases for female relatives.  Tan wrote <Miscellaneous Talks about Women's Doctors' Medical Skills> in her old age. Unfortunately, we don't tell many stories about her.

Tan's life was a remarkable one during the Ming Dynasty in China when women's duties were to bear children for their husbands. What she left behind is not only a monograph, but also the eternal reverence and memory of future generations.  The friendship between Yunxian and Meling and the mystery added more layers on top of the story.  Many thanks to Lisa See to bring us Lady Tan's whole life story. this book is brilliant. . I travel to Ming Dynasty with Lady Tan, from small town royal palace, from a small motherless girl to a wisdom Strong Lady. 
That is so Chinese, so history, so beautifully done. 

Every one should read this book. 100 of stars to Lisa See.
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Lisa See has become one of my favorite authors and I recommend her books oftentimes to my fellow historical fiction friends. If you are reading this review and have never read her titles, let this be your recommendation to give her a try.

In her latest novel, Lisa See transports readers, to 15th and 16th-century China and the incredible life of Tan Yunxian. A young woman born into a privileged family, surrounded by women who greatly influenced her healing practices.

Written during the Covid-19 lockdown, Lisa See writes a poignant tale of a woman who faces many trials and tribulations- some because of the restrictions of her society and others that are timeless across centuries. The novel was divided into different parts of Yunxian's life from childhood to her aging days.

I loved the characters and the realistic scenarios that they are placed under. There are some scenes of childbirth and foot binding that are very descriptive and might make a reader squeamish. However, do not deny yourself the pleasure of a fictionalized novel about a woman that actually lived.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for access to this title. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publication Date o6/06/23
Goodreads Review 06/06/23
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3.5 STARS - I've read and enjoyed two of Lisa See's earlier novels (The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and The Island of Sea Women) so I was excited to hear she had a new book coming out. Lady Tan's Circle of Women is set in the 15th and 16th century in China and follows the life of Tan Yunxian, a woman born to a privileged family who grew up surrounded by women who greatly influenced her life.

The story is told through Yunxian's POV and is broken up into the different parts of her life - from a young girl to a newly married woman living in her mother-in-law's house, to her roles as wife and mother. The story centres around the relationships she builds with her grandmother who taught her traditional medicine, her mother, her best friend and one of her father's concubines. But despite being born to privilege, Yunxian remains marginalized due to her gender and the reader witnesses the many restrictions forced upon women - including foot binding of young girls, the pressure of wives to produce sons and the selling of concubines.

I enjoyed learning about Chinese history, culture and, at a time when women had little agency over their fates, reading how Yunxian and her grandmother were pioneers in the male-dominated field of traditional Chinese medicine. I appreciate See's detailed (and often poignant) descriptions of childbirth, how concubines and wives were treated, and the excruciating food binding procedures young girls experienced. I don't think I'll ever forget the scene on the bridge and the 'crack'.

It is clear a lot of time and energy went into researching this book. The story is filled with details and vivid descriptions of medical procedures, the beautiful homes and gardens and clothing of the era. But it sometimes felt like these lengthy descriptions got in the way of the storytelling and made the book feel a bit longwinded. 

This is a well-researched and character-driven story about the female experience and the important relationships between women. Woven into the story are themes of misogyny, social status, and the vivid descriptions of Chinese history and culture. This book would make an excellent book club selection. 

Disclaimer: Thanks to Scribner Books for the advanced copy I received in exchange for my honest review.
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(Will be published 6 June 2023)

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See

Another book that reflects as much on the present as on the past, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women sheds light on the lack of real research into health issues that affect women. Ignorance of how women’s bodies function has resulted in many unnecessary deaths around the world. 

The book also draws parallels with the present the control of women’s bodies, from the buying and selling of concubines and other servants, to the restriction of their movement to the inner rooms of the family compounds, to the physical manipulation of footbinding that leaves our main character constantly off-balance, quite literally. 

It was not until I reached the end of the book that I discovered that this book is based around the history of a real woman, Yunxian Tan, who lived in 15th century China. Despite the restrictions Covid-19 placed on her usual research methods, Lisa See has once again successfully transported her readers into the past.
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This book was amazing. It’s the fictional story of a very real Doctor who lived and lost and practiced medicine in 15th century china. Each part highlighted one portion of Tan Yunxian’s life and each one brought with it its own mystery and wonder. In fact, the second part was so moving I spent the entirety of it in tears. Lisa See really knows how to capture the plight and peril of women, as well as their companionship and friendship.
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Lisa See is a best-selling American author of Asian themed historical fiction novels. Her previous books include "The Island of Sea Women", "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" and "Shanghai Girls".  In this book we travel to 15th century China and into the fictionalized life of an actual woman, Yunxian Tan. She was trained by her grandparents to be a doctor.  Her family was esteemed and she was married at the age of 15 to a family of even higher rank. Expected to stay within the confines of her husband's family compound and give birth to sons, she finds a way to continue her learning and become a respected doctor.  The author pieced together her possible life story based on her actual book "Miscellaneous Records of a Female Doctor" which is still available. This well researched book is a fabulous recommendation for historical fiction fans or readers interested in early medical practices.  I loved it!
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