Cover Image: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

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Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley for an advance copy of Lady Tan's Circle of Women. Lisa See is an amazing storyteller. I learned so much by reading this book. This is a totally immersive experience, which transports the reader to 15th century China. I love a book that educates and entertains. At times I forgot the story was occurring in the 1400's in China.  I love reading about strong women in different times and cultures. As a woman, I was captivated by the story of women and their friendships, which provided a circle of women who supported one another in an era when they had no freedoms or rights . My bookclub chose this book and what an amazing discussion we had!  Thank you again, and when I see Lisa See's name on a book jacket I know I will read it! In each of the seven novels I have read by Lisa See, I always find it enlightening to learn so much about Chinese culture, families, history . I will recommend to many!  
Leslie Ponder
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I always enjoy Lisa See’s novels for how transportive and authentic they are. She does a wonderful job with descriptive language, likable characters, a quiet but engaging story, and historically accurate details. Lady Tan’s Circle of Women was no different. It was slower paced than I usually prefer but it drew me in with its interesting topic. I found myself regularly wondering what was scientifically accurate today versus incorrect but culturally accepted and appropriate for the times. Any historical fiction that makes me want to research more is a success.

Feminist books are ever popular to the point that it feels like an expected topic, rarely done in a way that feels fresh or like it brings something new to the conversation. Brimming with girl power, this is a feminist story unlike any other I’ve read. The female empowerment is ever present and strong but subtly quiet. Given the time period there are moments where the female treatment feels backwards, yet ahead of its time. Through friendships, career and life choices, mother-in-law relationships, treatment of concubines, passed down advice and trades, we see the frailty and strength of women. It was a refreshing take on feminism. 

It took me several weeks to read the book but I found myself wanting to savor it in small sips. The trial towards the end brought an interesting element that I really enjoyed. I love a bit of mystery in a book. Lisa See remains one of my favorites.
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I was suppose to read this at the beginning of August for my bookclub but as you can tell that didn’t happen. I have struggled with reading physical books lately. I tend to doze off every time I try to read. Audiobooks have been my saving grace lately. 

I finally took a day to just read (and doze) this week. So, I was finally able to finish this interesting story. This is only my second book by Lisa See but it has cemented her as an auto-buy author. I really enjoy all of the work she puts into each of her stories. The research alone must be daunting. I learn so much about aspects of different cultures within her books. This book tackled the ancient practice of foot binding in China. While it was hard to read at times, I found it fascinating. It has prompted me to do some research of my own. 

I also loved how this book explore female friendship and what it meant to be a woman during this time period. The way in which medical treatment was described and how their were different doctors for different things was really amazing. Again, I want to do more research about this on my own. I thought the characters were well done. I especially liked Meiling, the midwife who befriends our main character. Just imagining everything she must have had to go through in society to make a way for herself was intriguing. 

The only reason this book didn’t get 5 stars from me was that the pacing was very slow until the last quarter of the book. If it had been just a little faster paced, it would have been a new favorite. Though I will read anything and everything that Lisa See writes!
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I enjoyed this to a point. The narrative turned out to be a life story with a plot type that I usually do not prefer. I wish we had gone deper on individual events, but I did appreciate the look at all the different challenges women faced during this time (many of them really engaged/enraged me) although I did want more depth to many of these stories.
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I couldn't finish this book, it was so dull and repetitive. Usually, I find See's books incredibly fascinating. I loved the inside look into historic Chinese women's world, but this book was just so dry.
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I would read anything by Lisa See. The rich detail is so immersive and the writing is beautiful but also remarkably readable. I didn’t want this novel to end.
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Thank you to @netgalley and @scribnerbooks for a digital advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

Attention Historical Fiction Lovers: READ THIS BOOK.

Lisa See has clearly researched the life of Lady Tan, and women of her era in Imperial China, with love and painstaking attention to detail. Not only did this story follow the life, love, and hopes of a woman, it brought her world to life for the modern reader. It explores family dynamics, power structures, and a history that kept women both protected and bound. I learned so much, but enjoyed the story each step of the way.

TW: miscarriage, corporal punishment, death, physical disfiguration (bound feet)

Yunxian is a Chinese girl born to an elite family. Upon the death of her mother, she is sent to live with her grandparents - both of whom are doctors. She is quickly taken under her grandmother’s wing and taught to heal women, a task most male doctors are unable to do due to cultural norms. Through the story of her life as a mother, wife, friend, and doctor, we are able to see Imperial China. Her triumphs, sacrifice, and hurdles paint a picture of each class of women during her lifetime. She lives and learns through the motto of, “A woman who helps others helps herself.”

I was thoroughly engrossed in this story and would highly recommend it to someone looking for something similar to Pachinko or Memoirs of a Geisha. While these books are obviously from very different periods of times and other cultures, the essence of the storytelling felt very similar.
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Lisa See's books are always excellent and this one is no exception. Her research is so in depth that as a reader you become fascinated by a topic for which you never knew about let alone had any interest in! She is such a talent and I was able to see her at a local bookstore on tour for this title so she gave even more insight into the novel.
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I look forward to every new Lisa See book. Her stories are so rich and intricately woven, they lure you in to another world and won't let you leave. Just as with every other book of See's, I turned the last page of Lady Tan's Circle of Women and wished I could read it again for the first time.
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I love all Lisa See's books and this one did not disappoint. Set in the 15th century China, a young girl learns medicine from her grandparents and as she grows up, uses her skills to help her family and friends throughout her life. As usual, the book is impeccably researched and contains vivid characters. I was transported to the Ming Dynasty!
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Lisa See does not disappoint us with Lady Tan’s story. I was surprised that it was set in the late 1400’s, so much of it could have taken place much later. I really enjoyed this book.
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Thank you NetGalley and Scribner for an ARC of this beautiful novel. Lisa See novels always fascinate because they teach me so much about the Asian culture. This novel follows a young girl who is taught at a very young age that her role in life is to be a perfect daughter, mother to a son, and most importantly, be an obedient wife. When her mother passes away due to an infection, she is forced to live with her grandparents who are both doctors. Her grandfather loves ancient medical texts and believes that women are subservient in the medical field, while her grandmother helps in countless births. As the story follows Yunxian, we see that she makes her own path due to the strong females that have laid the groundwork.
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Lisa See has written many works of historical fiction yet this is the first book of hers that I have read. It won’t be the last.

Ms. See tells an absorbing story and one that is filled with historical detail and, numerous characters and aspects of Chinese culture. Her settings come to life so gorgeously. Early in the book, the protagonist is traveling to Shanghai. I could feel her seasickness and claustrophobia. I think I was as eager as she was to get outside for some air. The author’s words made this voyage so vivid.

Characters are a strength of this writer. They are complex, multidimensional, interesting and relatable, despite the fact that they lived long before us. For example, the protagonist’s mother dies very early in the story. I had been admired her and was upset when she collapsed. The why of this was historically accurate and tragic to those of our present day. I could feel the daughter’s grief. Another example… a concubine was living in the home. She, too, was not a cardboard figure but rather a woman with feelings, education and a wish to help this grieving girl.

These are examples from early in the book but so much more follows. This is a long and involving novel. Along the way, readers will learn much about the China in the 1400s.

Readers are introduced to Yunxian and her friend/colleague Meiling . Yunxian has a life in which she tries to balance her love of medicine with the traditional women’s roles of the time. Readers will hope that she can achieve all that she wants.

Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction. I know that I will now read more titles by this author.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for this title. All opinions are my own.
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Lisa See’s latest continues her tradition of telling unheard Asian female stories. Lady Tan was an actual woman who practiced medicine in China in the 1500s. She was born into an elite family but was taught Chinese medicine by her grandmother. As a girl she befriends a young midwife and the two stay close throughout their lives as they treat women and their families, defying the boundaries set on them. This is the time of foot-binding, husbands with concubines and having your entire worth being based on whether you can produce a male heir. The challenges women have faced throughout history are never more apparent than in this novel. 

This was well researched and informative but it also has a softer side as you see the kindness Lady Tan shows to her patients and to her best friend Meiling. It’s a tribute to the circle of women we all create to help us through the ups and downs of life. This didn’t have any language or steam but there are plenty of references to “marriage chamber activities” and a trigger warning for infant loss.
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This was a fascinating look into the time. culture and lives of women in 15th century China.  Under her grandparents tutelage Yunxian learns how to diagnose and treat women's illnesses in a way men are not allowed. 
 She breaks tradition and follows her mind and heart to improve the lives of those around her.  We see the class structure of women and families and the restrictions on all.
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Lisa See has written a well researched historical novel that transports you to 15th century China. The story is written about Tan Yunxian through her actual journals about becoming a female doctor during a time when male doctors were not allowed to touch female patients. Foot binding and concubines are a large part of the story as she enlightens the reader about the time and culture of this time period. Her descriptions of the palaces and clothing make it easy to visualize the setting. Love and friendship between the different classes are an important part of this tale. Well researched and well written! #LadyTan’sCircleOfWomen #LisaSee #NetGalley
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Quick and Dirty⁣
-linear timeline historical fiction⁣
-single POV ⁣
-ancient Chinese setting⁣
-fierce female MC⁣
I won't lie. I was somewhere in the first 25% of this book and felt lost in the details when I messaged my friend Sam ( to ask if the book got better. Up to that point, the author had focused on world-building, detailing everything from the way people dressed and moved to the meticulous art of foot binding. I was feeling lost in the details and unsure if I should continue. Sam assured me that it got better and that my time would be well spent. Not long after I started listening to the audio while reading the ebook, and that seemed to do the trick! I was able to fully engross myself in Yunxian's story without getting so lost in the rich language of See's story-writing. Yunxian is an admirable character, and her plight to care for the women in her mother-in-law's household (and beyond) despite the disapproval she faced is compelling for any lover of feminist fiction. And See's descriptions of ancient Chinese customs, traditions, and values added depth and dimension to the story that elevated the experience. Most importantly, the friendship between Yunxian and Meiling was heartfelt and true. Will I read more of Lisa See's work? I'm sure I will, but this time I'll know to be prepared for the richly woven tapestry of characters, world-building, and slower-paced plot.
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I’ll read any book written by Lisa See! She is a master storyteller and Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is no exception. 

The main character is a fictionalized version of real-life physician, Tan Yunxian, who penned the earliest known writings by a female doctor in China. Through Lady Tan’s Circle of Women we get to know Yunxian (along with her best friend, Meiling) through her four stages of life: childhood (milk years), to young adulthood (hair-pining), to middle-age (rice and salt) to her final years (sitting quietly).

When writing about the role of women in 15-century China, the author certainly did her research. I felt transported to this time in history, understanding the culture and beliefs (particularly regarding the second-class treatment of women).

Of all the author’s books, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is most like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, right down to the details surrounding foot binding. I always come away learning so much about Chinese history and culture through Lisa See’s books.

Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Lisa See has done it again - a fascinating historical novel of a time period I know absolutely nothing about. Engaging and well researched, it was hard not to immerse myself in this novel. 

The only fault I have with this one, is it didn't stand up to her others for me - those were more engaging. However, this was informative and interesting and I do recommend. Lisa See is a fantastic author and brings her historical novels to brilliant life.
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Tan Yunxian is born into an elite family in 15th century China during the Ming dynasty, the time where women's feet where bound. Tan Yunxian is raised by her grandparents, she rarely sees her father in the big family compound.
Her grandmother is one of the rare female doctors of that time, who treats patients with traditional Chinese medicines, remdies and cures. Her grandmother is an expert in this field, with experience for many years, and she teaches Yunxian the most important pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations; looking, listening, touching, and asking. which is something only female doctors understand when treating a female patient. Yunxian learns where women's illnesses, and illnesses related to childbearing, and she becomes close friends with a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. But all the years of training to become a female doctor, abrubtly seem to stop when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, and her mother-in-law forbids her from doing her curing practices to the women in the household and to ever see her best friend Meiling again. She is forced to do what an obedient wife is supposed to do; embroider bound-foot slippers, pluck instruments, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay forever within the walls of the family compound, the Garden of Fragrant Delights. w

Yunxian wants to break free from everything she is forced to do, she just wants to treat and cure women and girls. But women didn't have that much power to do what they wanted, but Yunxian Tan found a way and lead a life of such importance that many of her remedies are still used five centuries later.

The book is beautifully written, full of historical detail that the books of Lisa See are well known of, and this book is no exception. Where the previous books of Lisa See sometimes took place in both China and sometimes the USA too, this book is completely set in 15th century China. The book is so detailed I could just imagine this being turned into a movie someday as the author already paints such a lifely image of that time period and the people in it.  The storyline is very good, altough I found it a bit that some parts where repetitive, and sometimes I missed a certain bit of action that could made it even more a page turner. With this I mean that some parts where only about Yunxian trying to cure people which is tremendous, but when it only repeats in many parts of the story, it can come over of more or less reading the same over and over again. But further on this is a well reseached and beautiful book with lots happening and historical Chinese characters and places that truly come alive on the pages
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