Cover Image: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

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A Fictional account based on a true history. There were some truly inspiring and sad events.


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Books like "Lady Tan's Circle of Women" are why Lisa See is a bestselling author of historical fiction and one of my favorite authors, Her books are always five star reads for me and this one is no exception. In fact, this may be my favorite of Ms. See's books! It truly hit every mark for me. The author's richly detailed writing transported me to mid-1400s China and immersed me in a world dominated by strict tradition. Ms. See's impeccable research breathes life into a time about which I knew little and created realistic and three dimensional characters that I won't soon forget. Yunxian was an easy character to like and I enjoyed following her life as she rebelled against the restraints of tradition to become a person in her own right and not just a pretty thing to be hidden away and enjoyed only by her husband.

Like all of Lisa See's works, this book was educational as well as entertaining, and I am a better person for having read it. Parts of this book were heart wrenching and difficult to read, especially those about foot binding, but the author writes without judgment and invites readers to do the same. I enjoyed learning about traditional Chinese medicine right alongside Yunxian. This book is packed full of mid-1400's Chinese girl power!

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the privilege of reading an advanced copy of this captivating book in exchange for my honest review.

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thank you so much to the author for providing a netgalley arc of this book for me <3

and thank you for writing this book

i love books about women, written by women
and historical fiction
so i knew that this would be perfect for me

i was so right

it's very much character driven, which i love
you follow our mc through her life

i was never bored
everytime there was something new eventhough you'd think it would become monotonous at some point but it wasn't
i read 60% of this book in one day because it was so entertaining

the mc was so nice, everything she did and thought was perfectly in line with who she was
i was never frustated with her

i loved the chinese medicine part of it, it might be boring to some, but as a history girlie i absolutely loved it
it was very interesting to see how some of these methods have influenced modern medecine

all in all, a beautifully written story about the power of women and friendship, and a magnificient historical testimony to ancient China !

i'll definetely buy a physical copy of this
because it was stunning
and the cover is breath-taking <3

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It has been a long time since I read a book that took place in ancient Asia, and in picking this book up, I was immediately reminded of why I love this literary time period so much. Taking place in 15th and 16th century China, this book tells a story of the noble life of the woman who will become Lady Tan. After witnessing first hand the inefficiency of male doctors as dictated by customs, Tan Yunxian begins to study her grandmother and grandfather’s medical practice and prescriptions. As a woman of noble birth, it is not in the cards for her to practice medicine, but as there are many women around her with maladies, she soon finds she cannot avoid it, eventually making a name for herself. This book is about so much more than this, it’s about devout friendship, it’s about the woman’s role in ancient China, it’s about a mother’s love, and it’s about justice. I found it nearly impossible to put down. I loved every minute of it! Thank you to @netgalley @scribnerbooks and to @lisasee_writer for this arc which releases on June 6! #lisasee #ladytanscircleofwomen #womeninmedicine #ancientchina #aapireads

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MANY thanks to NetGalley and Scribners for an advance reader of the fabulous book!
I have read several books by Lisa See and have enjoyed them, but this one topped them all. She is always able to transport the reader to another time and place so unlike our own, and this one is no exception. The subject matter, female doctors and midwives in 1400s Imperial China, is as far from 21st century US as it could be, yet See makes it so relatable and relevant. The customs and traditions of ancient China- foot binding, concubines, beliefs about life and death- are very foreign to us, but the interpersonal relationships- parent and child, best friends, husband and wife, wife and mother-in-law are totally relatable.
Tan Yunxian is raised in the wealthy home of her grandparents, and is raised not only to be married out at 15, but also to be "of use," and to follow in her grandmother's role of doctor. She learns about the pillars of Chinese medicine, the 4 examinations- looking, listening, touching, and asking- as she trains to be a female doctor. She is joined in her training by a young midwife-in-training, Meiling, who, despite her much poorer circumstances, becomes her best friend. They vow to be forever friends as children, but when Yunxian is married out, her mother in law forbids them from seeing each other, and demands that Yunxian be a proper wife, doing domestic tasks. Failing to produce the required male heir only causes more of a rift with her mother in law, and ultimately her husband.
Over the years, Yunxian honors her friendship with Meiling and continues to help the women of her family compound, relatives and concubines alike. This story takes on many the many difficulties that both women face as women in a male dominated and tradition ruled society, and their story it both compelling and satisfying. The passages on the medical procedures and the mixtures and cures that are used were fascinating. The fact that there were potions for fertility, miscarriage, abortion, menopause, and others spoke to how contemporary this book felt. Passages about foot binding, concubines and childbirth reminded the reader that this story took place a long time ago, in a very different world.
I loved this book, as I have all of Lisa See's books, and will recommend it highly to everyone I know!

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I am a huge fan of Lisa See, with her book The Island of Sea Women being my most recent favorite. Her new book is exceptional, impeccably researched, vivid, and incredibly hard to put down. Similarly to Sea Women, this story centers on the relationship between two women. The book, set in China during the late 1400s/early 1500s, chronicles the friendship between Meiling, a midwife's daughter, and Yunxian Tan, the daughter of an elite family who learns the ancient art of Chinese healing from her Grandmother. I loved how the book was broken up into four parts, mirroring the four parts of a woman's life described in ancient Chinese culture - the milk days, the hair pinning days, the rice-and-salt days, and the sitting quietly days. The author's writing fully immerses the reader in the culture of the time, describing the smells and tortuous custom of foot binding, and depicting what it really was like being a woman during that time - i.e. having a son was the focus of a woman's entire life, or the fact that a male doctor wasn't even allowed to feel the pulse of a woman without layers of cloth separating his hand from her wrist. This was a beautiful book, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Thanks to NetGalley for the early digital copy.

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I will read anything written by Lisa See, but this book is hard to digest. I found it very different to her other novels, and in many ways I don't think it measured up. LAN TAN'S CIRCLE OF WOMEN is a fictionalized retelling of Tan Yunxian's life, from childhood to essentially "retirement", and my GOD did I hate the men in this novel. The only one who was a man of any worth was Yunxian's grandfather, but the rest were not made for modern audiences to enjoy. I also found Yunxian herself to be difficult to grasp, as well as many of the other women. While Yunxian could be said to be ahead of her time in many ways, she was of her time in many others, and I found the footbinding elements of the book to be more graphic than what was written of in SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN.

I am glad to not that the friendship betrayal I've come to expect in See's books didn't happen in the way I thought it would, but I thought the murder mystery element was not well-paced, brought up once during the middle of the book and then again fourteen years later and solved in what seemed like a night.

I'm rounding up because Lisa See is a great writer regardless, but this was not what I expected.

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I felt that the book had too much medical detail and lacked more of the human connection and relationships that her other books had so much of

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As a fan of historical fiction, I always particularly love when a book features a strong female protagonist. As an American woman teaching in China, I love when the setting reflects the places I care most about. As a Lisa See fan who has been disappointed by her recent books, I was hoping that this book would be some sort of a redemption for me. Lady Tan's Circle of Women checked all three boxes... and then some! What a fabulous novel!

I didn't know anything about this time period in Chinese history, and as with many of See's previous novels, I was transported back in time, and learned while taking the ride. Tan Yunxian will be an inspiration for my students. She demonstrates to them that even in the 15th century there were “bad ass” strong women who were smart and savvy and willing to take chances for the things they believed in and people they loved.

Not only are the characters and story wonderful and gorgeously described, the settings are so brilliantly recreated that I wanted to leave my current, fairly modern town and travel to the areas that have preserved many of the Ming dynasty cultural relics.

As a great aside, I have been venturing into the world of Chinese Traditional Medicine over the years, trying it for various ailments where Western medicine either didn’t work, or I didn’t like the side effects. The information I garnered from the novel was enlightening and actually gave me interesting fodder for discussion with my TCM doctor.

I really loved this book and it has restored my faith in one of my most favorite authors!
Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the ALC in exchange for my honest opinions.

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Thank you NetGalley for the digital arc.

Lisa See captivates with the story of Yunxian Tan. We meet her as a young girl of about 8 years old and not far into the story her mother dies. Yunxian, from an elite or well to do family, goes to live with her grandparents, under the medical tutelage of her grandmother. Yunxian befriends a midwife’s daughter, Meiling, and the story progresses through the years.

I enjoyed this book very much. I’ll try to come back with clear and organized thoughts later but all I can say is I’m not disappointed in the least. I loved the circle of women that supported, trained and shaped Yunxian life. When she understands the priceless value of the gift of various women in her life, she uses that knowledge, medically and other wise, to help many. She becomes Lady Tan in a more complete sense of the word. Spending this time with her in the pages of this book has been time well spent.

Read this one!

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Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See is a beautifully written story about a young girl who after her mother's death is sent to live with her grandparents. Grandmother Ru is a woman doctor who only treats the women of their family. Her grandfather is also a doctor treatingonly men, and between the both of them they teach Yunxian how to use herbs to heal the sick. Yunxian befriends the midwife daughter Meiling and they are taught to work together in aiding in women's health. Meiling is soon are summond by the Emperor of China to help the Empreress to deliver a healthy son. On request of Meiling, Yunxian is summond to treat an eye infection of one of the Emperess's intercircle. This book is full of historical facts about China and how the women were treated and what roles they played within the family. While Yunxian has three healthy daughters, she is still burdened with producting a son. When her mother in law buys a concubine for Yunxian's husband, she is hurt and determined to give him a son. When Yuxian returns from her trip to the Imperial Capital she is faced with the small pox epidemic in her home. While away she gives birth to a son and now hands him over to her mother in law to help save the women and children in her inner circle. Yuxain's youngest daughter is fighting for her life as well as her mother in law's Ritual Son. Yuxian soon send for her grandmother's help when she finds that she is outnumber with the amount of people that needs to be treated. As Awalys Lisa See does her research from the villages in China to how they are dressed and traditions. Lady Tan is based on a real woman doctor who treated other women no matter of their social status. She kept records of patitents illness and then turned it in to a published book.

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I am a big fan of See's writing and her focus on little known women from history. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is one of my favorite books and I often come back to it because of the beautiful writing and fantastic historical details. I mention Snow Flower and the Secret Fan because if you've read that you will definitely notice the similarities between both books.

Lady Tan's Circle of Women is set in early 15th century China and told from the first person perspective of Lady Tan referred to as Yunxian for most of the book. The novel spans a wide swath of time going from Yunxian's early childhood to marriage and motherhood and finally to matriarch of her family. At the beginning of the book Yunxians mother dies and she is sent to live with her grandparents and is slowly instructed in the art of medicine by her grandmother. Accompanying her on the journey is friend and midwife in training Meiling. The two grow up together and rely on each other both for medical help as well as friendship. There are a few points of conflict in the novel including difficult pregnancies', death and disease, Yunxian being forbidden to practice medicine and more. I don't want to spoil anything but for the most part everyone gets a happy ending.

See's descriptions of the medicines and remedies Yunxian uses are also fascinating to read about and add depth to the story. Yunxian was clearly a remarkable woman not just for the time period in which she lived.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend to any and all fans of historical fiction.

I was provided a free copy of this book through NetGalley.

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I eagerly anticipate any book written by Lisa See. She transports me to another place, another time. Lady Tan's Circle of Women did not disappoint,

Though this book IS historical fiction, it also shines as women's fiction. The circle ow women who surround Lady Tan are all amazing in their own right, different walks of life, different age groups but were able to love and support each other through the inconceivable. .

Set in China in the 1400's/1500's taught me so much about ancient China, Lisa See's research is impeccable and so well relayed.

I cannot recommend this book enough. You will spend many hours mesmerized by the story, the people but mostly by the women who come alive on it's pages.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Lady Tan's Circle of Women.

I'm not a fan of historical fiction but when I saw the premise, I was intrigued.

This is my first Lisa See book (I know, what a shock) and I've always heard positive reviews about her books so I thought about giving this a try.

This is about Tan Yunxian—born into an elite family, yet not unaccustomed to the rigors of what it means to be a meek and mild woman. Foot binding, remain obedient and give her husband many sons. That is the way of women in ancient times, especially in 15th century China.

Ms. See writes well and builds a world of opulence and boundaries, rules, and restrictions. We follow Yunxian through her life, being taught by her grandmother, and understanding and learning the ways of treating female patients.

This is a story of female friendship, support and empowerment at a time when all women, young and old, rich or poor, were powerless.

I had never head of Yunxian until I read Lady Tan's Circle of Women. When I finished I did my own research into this fascinating and remarkable women.

I read many genres and am not surprised by the subjugation and restrictions women were bound to in ancient and medieval times, but sometimes reading about what they went through is so painful and traumatizing to read, I'm astonished (and yet not) that these women survived all the physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.

Why wouldn't we?

We're women.

Like all female pioneers in any field/industry dominated by men, all it takes is one women to speak up, to find her voice, and not be afraid or diminished by the critics and the haters.

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I have loved every book from Amy Tan! This is no different. The struggles of women no matter the time period of geographic location ring true for me. This book party historical fiction part mystery was engrossing.

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“Lady Tan’s Circle of Women” provides a fascinating glimpse into Chinese court life in the 15th century. Lisa See paints a picture, with well-chosen words, of a life so different from our own but with some of the same issues. The story is drawn from a real individual, Lady Tan, an educated female from an elite family, who was trained in ancient Chinese medical practices. Lady Tan wrote a book about her cases and treatments that continues to be published. Although little is known about the real Lady Tan, the author imbues her with heart and soul so we can envision the world she lived in. There are wonderfully wise depictions of female friendships and relationships, especially between Lady Tan and Meiling, her childhood friend. Meiling, from a totally different class, is trained as a midwife. The skills of the two friends complement and support one another. This work of historical fiction has been extensively researched and the writing is charming. There are a few sections of the book, particularly at the beginning and end, that are rather slow reading but, on the whole, it is wonderful read. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an advanced readers copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Lisa See is pure magic! I love how this story came about in the beginning of the pandemic from finding a slim novel on her research shelf to delving into the life and what info could be found on Tan Yunxian a woman physician from 15th-century China.

I really enjoyed the formatting of this book broken up into Parts of a woman’s life. You meet Tan in her “Milk Days” and then journey through “Sitting Quietly” years.

A story about women supporting women. I loved getting to know the characters along the way and the different positions each one has in a household. The friendship between Tan and the midwife’s daughter Meiling was special to see grow and go through struggles some friendships can experience. Tan’s grandmother won my heart as well as her fathers concubine. Tan’s journey through medicine and marriage/parenthood was greatly supported by the ones she loved.

I’m loving all the biographical fiction coming out and Lisa See hands down delivers such a great story in this genre!

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Lisa See has done it again with lyrical prose, fabulous character development and a story that will plunge you headfirst into a story about a woman who will fight hard to be seen as equal, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

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See has this fantastic consistent ability to completely transport her readers within whatever setting she has chosen, and “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women” was absolutely no exception. From page one, I was immediately right smack back in Ming Dynasty-era China, where I then proceeded to follow the fascinating life of Tan Yunxian. Her tale of course is woven with beauty and skill, but for me personally, it’s all about the top-notch historical immersion experience. I am not sure if I can even fathom the amount of research that goes into works like this, because the detail here impresses me on nearly every level. I feel like I am at a point where flatly saying “It’s by Lisa See” should be more than enough to let others know that they’re in for a high-quality experience.

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Well, this wasn't my favorite Lisa See (I guess they can't all be slam dunks-right?). BUT I can't ignore the fact that this is a richly, expertly crafted work of historical fiction. In discussing it with a friend, she said that at times it felt like she was reading a textbook and I have to agree. That's how intricate it was in the historical details. Unfortunately, a lot of those details involved foot binding, which can really turn my stomach it its descriptions (this was a huge theme in another Lisa See book I read). I know this was very prevalent at the time and that it was a huge event in young girls' lives, but at times it felt like a bit much. Paired with the level of mistreatment in any women's life at that time, it was just overall more depressing than her other books and lacked the "emo" feels that are in her other works. In a sense, it was lacking in the "heart" category.

I know I keep comparing to her other books but there really are a lot of similarities and here I'll list those that I enjoyed: the women friendships, the women who pushed boundaries and became more than what was expected of them, and the writing style. Other aspects I loved included: her grandmother and the intricate details about TCM (traditional chinese medicine).

Like I said, this one was a heavy hitter in the historical element, lacking a bit in the character development and
overall "heart" and excitement. I'm glad I read it, I learned a whole lot, and I'm excited for her next book!

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