Cover Image: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

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Member Reviews

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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I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

Before reading this book, I knew almost nothing about life in China centuries ago. I was aware of female foot binding, and thanks to Mulan I had a passing knowledge of matchmakers, but otherwise I'm like Jon Snow and know nothing. After reading this book, I feel like I know pretty much exactly what it would have been like to be an upper-class woman in China hundreds of years ago. 

There were so many things described in this book that pissed me off. We were treated to some mildly detailed descriptions of foot binding, and what can happen to women because of it. There was one scene in particular where I thought something rather unfortunate had happened to one of Yunxian's daughters, but soon found out that what had been described was the desired result. Again, I knew of foot binding before I started reading this story, but I had no idea about how absolutely horrible the practice was for the women doing it. 

I also found it hard to get over the way mothers-in-law treat their son's wives as depicted in this story. Nowadays I get it when MILs aren't fond of the women their sons choose, but back then the marriages were arranged so MIL would have had some say in who was marrying her son. To then treat your new daughter-in-law who has been forced to leave her family home (in many cases the only place she has ever even seen) like garbage for simply existing is asinine. 

Then there's the aspect of medical care for women. Women aren't supposed to be doctors, but men aren't allowed to touch or see female patients. How could anyone expect that kind of treatment to lead to positive outcomes for women? But this one doesn't even surprise me all that much, considering how women's health concerns today, in industrialized nations, are often dismissed as inconsequential. 

It was just one thing after another making it clear that basically all women are property, at least all well-to-do and beautiful women. While a wife's place at her husband's side was pretty much guaranteed unlike his concubines, she was still considered his property and at the mercy of the ruling lady of the compound. 

The one high point, and something that I desperately hope was true, is that husbands were expected to sexually satisfy their wives. Sure it was believed that a woman's pleasure helped ensure pregnancy, but it was still an expectation for the men. And it was probably the one actual bright spot of being a woman in China back then. 

Overall I give Lady Tan's Circle of Women 4.867 out of 5 stars.
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What an amazing new book from Lisa See! I was fascinated by the medical terminology used back then and the gender inequalities when it came to women in the medical profession. Lisa See does an amazing job tugging at your heart strings and I can’t wait to read her next one!
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Inspired by the true story of a 15th Century woman physician in China, Lisa See tells the story of Tan Yunxian, who was raised by her grandparents letting the medical arts after her mother's death. Her grandmother is one of the few female doctors in China. She teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, which are limited in practice from male doctors to female patients, as men are forbidden to look at, touch or speak with female patients directly. Meiling, the midwife's daughter, and Yunxian quickly form a friendship cut short and altered after Yunxian's mother-in-law forbids Yunxian from practicing medicine and seeing Meiling. Eventually, through her merits and work, Yunxian regains her friendship with Meiling and can honor her husband's family and prove herself as a worthy doctor. It is an inspiring and unique story.
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I love Lisa See! Two of my faves are The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and The Island of Sea Women. I realized that part of my fondness for these two is the amount I learned about history, China, women, and so much more – while being entertained by a fantastic story, with character I CARED about. Books that make me THINK and FEEL – that’s wondeful!

The backstory on how Ms. See came to write this is shared in the afterword. Don’t miss it! It is just so serendipitous that a book the author just happened to pick up in the early days of the pandemic prompted this story to be imagined, researched, and written. 
The story is set in 15th-century China, and revolves around Tan Yunxian, a young girl from an elite family who is raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother is one of the few female doctors in China, and she shares her knowledge with Yunxian, especially the “Four Pillars” of Chinese medicine: Looking, Asking, Listening, and Touching.
Yan learns alongside Meiling, a  young girl in training to be a midwife. They are incredibly close until it is time for Yan to enter into an arranged  marriage. TBH I loved the story of their friendship, and despite having nightmares about foot binding, I found the  detail of their daily life incredibly fascinating.

I’m grateful to Scribner and Netgalley for providing a copy of this amazing book in exchange for my honest review. Five BIG stars.
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This is one of her best books. Well researched, well written, very absorbing. I enjoyed this one immensely. Her writing only gets better and better.
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Another great story by Lisa See, this novel tells the story of Tan Yunxian, a young woman who grows up learning about medicine and how to treat the ailments and problems faced by women. As in many of See's novels, this one also has a friendship at its heart. This friendship spans years and crosses a socioeconomic divide. The novel is loosely based on facts but reads like non-fiction with the details of fashion and traditions of that period. I enjoyed inhabiting the world (although I'm grateful that I don't actually live during that time!) while I read this novel.
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I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting read . I found that I was able to read quickly and enjoyed the pacing and premise of the book. I would recommend to others.
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I'm very fortunate to have just heard Lisa See discuss Lady Tan's Circle of Women at Douglas County Libraries in Colorado. In addition to being a master storyteller, she thoroughly researches each nuance of her books to ensure they are authentic and realistic. I particularly loved the characters in Lady Tan and the sense of hope that See inspired despite the obstacles faced by women at all levels of society. Highly recommend!
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Story of a woman of high society in the 15th century who tries to help the women and children in her home by treating their illnesses because men were not allowed to see the women they were treating. Great book with great ideas that can be applied to our own lives
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