Cover Image: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

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Member Reviews

This well researched book, taking place during the Ming Dynasty  is loosely based on a real person.  Lady Tan is a female doctor, a rarity at that time, specializing in women's treatments.  She came from several generations of healers.  She is married of at the age of 15 and her mother-in-law is not a fan of hers and forbids her to practice within the women's quarters.  Her best friend is a midwife, which ia a forbidden relationship to a person of Lady Tan's station.  Lady Tan's skills become evident and she her friend are sent to attend the empress in her pregnancy.  A wonderful tale that is a page turner and a good choice for bookclub discussions.
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Another great read from Lisa See! I thought she couldn't top The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and The Island of Sea Women! This may have done it. . .

Before the tale begins, the author generously helps a reader out with her Author's Note: "This story begins in 1469. . ." placing the story of Tan Yunxian, age 8 in a world so far removed from you and I that further context is required about the state of Western medicine on the North American continent (bloodletting, leeches). Further Western historical life landmarking with Columbus-sees-America (31 years after Tan Yunxian's birth) is offered, proving helpful to this reader.

From here to the very end is filled with the development and stories of Yunxian's growing circle of women. . .her angels, mentors, teachers, saviors, friends, guides, truthtellers, promise keepers. This is a book about medicine in a time in a China whose people fully believed they were in 1469 the latest and greatest, most advanced of civilizations and societies. Centuries of laws and traditions were honored and upheld. Wealthy families, led by wealthy men (1st sons who beget 1st sons) supported by helpmeets - women (bearing those 1st sons). All others were servants to the system. Yunxian was not a 1st son. She was a daughter. Luckily, she was the daughter of a rich doctor, educated and not opposed to her learning healing arts from her grandmother.

We read of Yunxian's milk days (little girl) to her hair-pinning days at fifteen (style of hair announces marriageability to the world), this journey continuing through her rice-and-salt days of growing and caring for her husband's family (young and old), through to the "time of sitting quietly," the time when a woman should wait to die in order to join her husband should he have gone before or be the one to await Himself.

But our Yunxian, choses to occupy her wait constructively with the help of one of her best ladies, Meiling. She takes up her writing tools, and like our wonderful Lisa See. . . .writes.

*A Sincere Thank You to Lisa See, Scribner, and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review.*
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Loved reading a new book by one of my favorite authors. Lady Tan’s Circle of Women was a wonderful story and did not disappoint. I found myself immersed in Yuxian’s journey and enjoyed each of the women that made up her circle. Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for the ARC of this book.
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thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction novel

thank you to netgalley and to the publisher for this review copy.
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Once again, Lisa See has shown her incredible talent. The amount of research she does into cultures and customs shows in every paragraph.
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An evocative, immersive read. I love that this is based on a real historical person, and thought See did an excellent job evoking 15th century China, including the role of women in society, the organization of society, and the medical practices of the time.
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I love Lisa See’s writing. In my opinion, she is one of the best historical fiction authors out there, so when I saw an ARC of her latest release available on Netgalley, I had to request it. 

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is such a fascinating read. It takes the reader into the medical world of 1400s China and in particular the lives of female medical practitioners and patients. It goes into great detail about foot bindings, birth, and the role of women in different strata’s of society.

Tan Yunxian and Meiling are great main characters and I loved seeing the relationship between the two of them. They really show the contrast between different levels of society at the time. 

All in all, if you are a Lisa See fan or enjoy historical fiction, you will likely enjoy this book. 

TW: Miscarriage, foot binding, arranged marriage, classism, torture/whipping, murder

Thank you to Netgalley, Lisa See, and Scribner for the advanced copy of this book. This in no way affects the objectivity of my review.
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• Lady Tan's Circle of Women takes us to the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century, drawing inspiration from real-life Chinese doctor Tan Xunzian. 
• See uncovers hidden narratives, providing comprehensive and precise information to her readers. Don't forget to check the acknowledgments section where she describes her research methods. 
• Yunxian's grandmother, a female doctor in China, teaches her the Four Examinations, pillars of women's health in Chinese medicine. Yunxian's journey through societal rules, including an arranged marriage, is captivating. Her mother-in-law restricts her from helping women and seeing her best friend, Meiling, a midwife in training. See's writing magically transports us to that time and place in history. 
• The book's title captures the essence of the story—the significance of women's support in our lives. A strong title remains ingrained in our memory, recalling the storyline even years later. • This book's lessons remain relevant today, emphasizing women's autonomy over their bodies and pursuing dreams despite societal expectations. 
• The story showcases the enduring bonds and resilience of women in the face of adversity. 
• Lisa See's novels offer a wealth of knowledge, vividly depicting women's lives in China, including foot-binding, midwifery, and Chinese medicinal practices.
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Lisa See has done her genius again! Set in ancient China, this tells the tale of Tan who is born into wealth and then is married off into more wealth and power. The problem is, she is a gifted doctor to women. How does she balance the two very opposite roles while upholding her duties to both? I loved learning about the traditions and healing--the scenes of foot binding were gruesome, but I think that was the point. Highly recommended.
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Read This Book! 

I loved 💗 this book. There is so much history and love learning about different time periods and different cultures. The woman are completely subservient to the men, yet still find ways to work and show off their talents.

If you enjoy Historical Fiction and especially if you like Lisa See’s books, you will adore this rich and enchanting book. 

Wonderful Story. Love 💕 and Highly Recommend❣️
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Tan Yunxian is a child when her beautiful mother passes away and she is sent to be raised by her paternal grandparents. As her important father travels to work for the imperial dynasty, her grandmother decides to prepare Yunxian to be a female doctor, as she herself is famously known. She loves learning and her grandmother becomes the center of her entire world. Yunxian is devastated when she is eventually matched for marriage and has to leave the familial home. As the women do as they are told and rarely leave the compound, she desperately misses her family and true best friend, Meiling, daughter of the midwife. In the Garden of Fragrant Delights Yunxian is lonely and must conceal her special talents to be the elite wife that her mother-in-law expects. Always yearning for the freedom to care for others while she awaits having the son that is expected of her, Yunxian finds subtle ways to treat the numerous women in their home and teach her daughters the traditions they adhere to. This magnificent work of historical fiction takes the reader to the Ming Dynasty during the 15th century. This novel is about friendship, family and motherhood and shines a light loosely based on a true story of a remarkable female physician practicing Chinese medicine. It is not a quick read but it is beautifully written and a fascinating part of history.
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Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free advance copy of Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See.

I so enjoyed this book. From the descriptions of the life and work of a real-life female doctor living in an elite household in 16th century China to the story of family saga and palace intrigue, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women doesn’t disappoint. The depictions of Lady Tan’s natal home, her marriage home and the Forbidden City along with the practice of medicine at that time were simply fascinating. In a society segregated by gender in which male doctors “examined” female patients by asking questions through a screen, the advent - controversial as it was - of female physicians was life changing and life saving for many. The book’s description of the interface between doctors and midwives in a very class conscious society also enhanced my enjoyment of the book. Five stars - and do yourself a favor and read every word of the acknowledgments and then visit the author’s website for terrific photos and detail about the places and the story she researched. Brava.
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I had to take a couple of days to process this amazing book. I feel like I will never be able to honor it adequately.

Yunxian, born into a wealthy and powerful family during the Ming dynasty, was raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother trained her to follow in her footsteps as a female doctor in China, helping women mainly with problems "below the girdle".

Yunxian develops a lifelong friendship with Meiling, the daughter of a midwife. No mud, no lotus is their saying meaning from adversity comes beauty. When Yunxian is married into a family who does not allow her to see Meiling or to treat the women of the compound, she must find a way to please and be a proper wife to her new husband but also to make peace with the other women, especially her new mother in law, while using her knowledge of medicine and women to help others and find a way back to her old friend.

This book was ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I found myself completely immersed in the culture Lisa See describes in such brilliant detail. I have never understood foot binding and I was absolutely mesmerized and heartbroken by the things these women went through. Yunxian and Meiling's friendship was so honest and raw with so much love. These women had no power, yet so much power behind the scenes and within their compounds. Their interactions and friendships and jealousies are so true of any group of women while having a particular dynamic in this society. There was such an emphasis on social class and expectations. I was completely enthralled and mesmerized by the experience of this book.

Thank you to @netgalley and @simonandschuster for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I also listened to audio and it was A+!
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Set in 1500s China, this beautifully woven tale tells the story of what life was like for wealthy females and specifically the practice of medicine. It was original, well-written and fascinating with a bit of mystery to add suspense and intrigue. I run a historical fiction book discussion and I will be choosing this title for sure.
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An interesting historical fiction biographical novel about Lady Tan Yunxian, a real-life historical figure.  Lady Tan was born and brought up in an aristocratic Chinese family in the 15th century.  She came from a long legacy of doctors and her grandmother trained her in traditional Chinese medicine from a young age.  She was trained particularly on treating women and their problems.  In those days, there were no lady doctors and women's health issues were largely ignored.  Lady Tan, so like women even today, struggled all her life to balance her domestic duties with her passion for pursuing medicine.  The novel gives immense insight into the lives, practices and culture of those times.  I found it a bit too long and slow but well worth the effort in the end,
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Lisa See is my favorite author. I have enjoyed each and every book, and this one does not disappoint. This book highlights, once again, the struggles that women have to endure. This story focuses on an affluent girl whose mother has passed and she is sent to live with relatives. During her time there, she learns the art of healing others. This is a fantastic historical fiction novel.
The ARC was provided by NetGalley
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LADY TAN'S CIRCLE OF WOMEN by Lisa See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane) is a LibraryReads Hall of Fame selection for June. This novel takes place during the Ming dynasty, in the late 1400s and early 1500s in Wuxi, China. The main character, Tan Yunxian, grows from her milk days as a little girl through her hair-pinning days as a young woman to the rice-and-salt days as a wife and mother and finally to sitting quietly days, the mature years. She shares a deep friendship with a young midwife, Meiling, and they experience some heart rendering events together. Tan Yunxian learns to be a female doctor through her own grandmother and ancestral heritage. Although she is often stifled by societal expectations (some of which, like foot binding, are difficult to read), Tan Yunxian persists, combats smallpox, and even treats others at the royal court. The women who influenced and cared for her, including her mother, called Respectful Lady; her father's concubine, named Miss Zhao; her maid, Poppy; and even her combative mother-in-law, Lady Kuo, all have a lasting impact on her life. It seems like I am often amazed at how historical fiction novels not only provide vivid details about a time period (and Lisa See is excellent at this), they also frequently illuminate little known heroines. In a recent email, the publisher suggested that readers who wish to learn more about See's writing process and inspiration, check out this Q&A:
There, I learned that Tan Yunxian was a real person who actually did document her cases and that the information, in annotated form, is still available over 500 years later. Interested readers can register to join a discussion with Lisa See on June 27 at noon, Central time:
or visit her website for further details about LADY TAN'S CIRCLE OF WOMEN:
In the meantime, start reading this surprisingly absorbing story.
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Keeping me enthralled in a book about China is not easy but Lisa See certainly made it seem easy, because the pages just swept by.  Lady Tan's Circle of Women is the true story of a woman raised in an aristocratic family in the 15th century.  Like most women of her status, Tan Yunxian's feet are bound and her life is confined to a certain area of the family compound, but unlike other women, she has been trained by her grandmother in the pillars of Chinese medicine with specialization in women patients, and closely befriends a midwife's daughter in the process.  But a woman's worth is not as a doctor, but as wife and mother, and Yunxian is a woman of her time, desperate to be a good wife and provide a son to the family.  Friendship, career, family.  Which dreams are possible, if any?  
The story, being based on fact, is complex, and as the title hints, no achievement is made alone.  The characters are diverse and complicated and extremely well-developed.  I especially love that See kept Tan Yunxian's mindset in that of a woman of the time-period, looking on bound feet as a beautiful thing for example, rather than modernizing it as so many do to make it more accessible for modern readers (and quite spoiling it for me).  I do like to feel I am stepping back in time, and there certainly is that feeling here.  Loved it.  Beautiful work.  Highly recommended.
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Yunxian’s mother has passed away. She is sent to live with her grandparents. She learns so much from her grandmother. But will it lead to her detriment? It very well could. And it does in some ways, but yet it saves her as well.

Yunxian is such an amazing lady. She is thrown into an arranged marriage. She has much knowledge about medicine but, as a woman in this time period, she is not supposed to be intelligent. She is supposed to be pretty, quiet, subservient and submissive. She falls short in a lot of these areas. But her intelligence on handling many situations saves her.

This book is amazing! The time period, the characters, and lord….the intensity in places. This book will give you so many feelings and you will have to process…so be ready!

The way things have changed but yet they have stayed the same!

Need a good all-around story to get lost in…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today.

I received this novel from the publisher for an honest opinion.
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Lisa See’s books are beautifully written and her stories transport you to another time and place. In Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, you will follow the story of Yunxian and her extended friends and family in 15th century China. The women are the stars of this story and you’ll learn about footbinding, midwives, and medicine while also being immersed into the family traditions of the times. A rich and beautiful story; I hated for it to end.

Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for this ARC.
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