Cover Image: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Lady Tan's Circle of Women

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Member Reviews

The book centers on Tan Yunxian, an upper class woman and one of only a handful of female doctors in China in the late 1400’s. In addition to offering a beautiful story about the bonds of family and friendship, the book provides a fascinating glimpse into medical care in ancient China, childbirth, and the foot-binding process. From reading the afterward, it’s obvious a great deal of research and historical accuracy went into this book. Highly recommend for historical fiction fans.

My sincere thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read the digital ARC.

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A woman's life in 15th Century China is very limited, particularly if she is born into an upper class family. In this book Lisa See gives us a glimpse into this life. When her mother dies Yunxian is sent to live with her grandparents. They are an exceptional couple, each is a doctor. It is decided that Yunxian will learn female medicine from her grandmother. A female doctor may not touch blood so often works with a midwife who can. Meiling is the daughter of the midwife who works with Yunxian's grandmother. The older women foster a special friendship between the two girls which carries them through their lives. Yunxian lives a life of privilege but is forbidden to practice medicine by her mother-in-law. This is a story of friendship, the intrigue of the women's courts, women managing in spite of men, and more. This book is rich with themes for discussion.
This is a review of an E-galley provided by NetGalley.

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I loved this book! I think that it was an interesting and unique topic and the way See was able to weave fact with fiction during that period in Chinese history was good.

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This was a really interesting historical novel set in 15th century China, with a main character inspired by a historical figure who was a woman physician from that time period. I was really fascinated by the cultural practices around medicine, not only in the sense of traditional medicine and treatments but also in the way that medical practitioners were categorized. Most physicians were men, but men could not touch women, so there were either go-betweens to facilitate communication or, rarely, women physicians were brought in to touch and speak with women patients directly. The other major medical practitioners, all of whom were women, were midwives. Midwives were less respected than physicians because they touched blood and were therefore considered polluted (neither male nor female physicians were meant to touch blood in any way). This is all to say that I felt like I was learning while reading this story, but the historical detail was woven so flawlessly into the narrative that it didn't feel didactic or anything. The main character, Tan Yunxian, is trained by her physician grandparents from a young age and also forms a relationship with Meiling, the daughter of a midwife who becomes a midwife herself. Yunxian is from a wealthy, powerful family, and she marries into an even wealthier one. We're with her as she transitions from childhood to her adolescence to her time as a young wife and eventually a young mother trying to find her place in a new household. She struggles with fertility issues, with her independence, and she even becomes involved in solving some crimes as the story goes on, all while practicing medicine (sometimes clandestinely). I enjoyed this and really felt like I was immersed in the story.

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I am a huge fan of Lisa See so I was excited to get an advanced copy of her newest book. Once again, she did not disappoint. The amount of research she did for this book is astounding and as the reader, I was amazed and awed by it. The story takes place in 15th century China and was inspired by the true story of a woman physician. The author gives us a shocking glimpse of what life was like for women during this time period. They had very few rights and were basically treated like property. So the fact that one woman was able to become a physician during this time period was quite unusual. One aspect I do enjoy of this author’s books is that she consistently portrays her female characters as resilient and intelligent. She emphasizes the importance of friendship among women as a means of providing support to each other. My only criticism of this book was that I felt that some of the descriptions of the medical treatments the main character, Yunxian, administered were overly wordy not always interesting. But overall, the story was fascinating and very well written.
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I've been a Lisa See fan for over a decade at this point and honestly, no book of hers has impressed me more than this one, I am already a sucker for period historical fiction and when coupled with a region whose history I don't know and with a brilliant author, there are only good things to say. See's research is meticulous, her imagery makes this nonvisual reader see, and her characters' voices and stories capture more than my imagination, they make me want to meet them and have a conversation about the rest of their lives that didn't end up on the pages, am I maybe extra sensitive to this particular story because I am a new second time mom? Maybe, but really it's Lisa See's incomparable story telling that keeps me coming back for more, I don't think I can ever not love her stories. Hurry and get this book at your favorite store or better yet, patronize a library and pick up the rest of her work.

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I’ve always loved the work of Lisa See and this new title is no exception. What little is actually know of the 15th century female physician Tan Yunxian’s life is based on her medical writings that have survived to this day. Lady Tan was an educated woman, unusual for her upper class background. Even more unusual is the medical education she received from the grandparents who raised her. This provides a wonderful springboard for See to explore the lives of upper class women and midwives of the Ming Dynasty, as well as the history and culture of that era. A fascinating read that had me searching for images and historical information about the era. Looking forward to See’s “Step Inside” resources for this title that will be on her website.

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Pub date: 6/6/23
Genre: historical fiction
Quick summary: Yunxian grows up under the influence of her physician grandmother, and her medical knowledge will change her life forever - even if her mother-in-law refuses to let her practice.

I love historical fiction with medical themes, so this story was a perfect match! This fictionalization of Yunxian's story, based on her book Miscellaneous Records of a Female Doctor, really illuminated the Ming Dynasty time period to me. Yunxian and the women in her circle had their feet bound in preparation for marriage, and See showed how this tradition of "lotus feet" completely changed their lives. I enjoyed Yunxian's friendship with midwife Meiling and seeing how their relationship endured despite their trials and tribulations. While Yunxian gave a window into the elite, Meiling showed the perspective of a lower class woman.

I don't know much about traditional Chinese medicine, so I enjoyed seeing how Yunxian and her grandmother treated and advocated for the women in their circles. In her author's note, See makes the point that TCM should not be considered "backwards"; at the time this story took place, Western physicians were not able to offer much more than bloodletting.

Historical fiction fans will enjoy this book; the characters, medical themes, and sense of place are special. 4.5 stars rounded to 5.

Thank you to Scribner for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I was sent this book in order to conduct an interview with Lisa See for my podcast; the interview has happened and will be posted in July after the UK publication of the book. It will be up at http://wormholepodcast.com

I have written a review of the book and briefly featured it on Instagram and TikTok,

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This will be a big hit at our library! I love Lisa See's ability to take little known periods of history and make us care about them. I could also see this being a great book club pick.

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A BIG THANK YOU to Scribner for the ARC of Lisa See's Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, scheduled to be published on June 6th, 2023. This novel tells the moving and fascinating story of women living in 15th-century China, at a time when the societal expectations governing the roles of women dictate that they dutifully fulfill their familial and matrimonial obligations above all else. The novel centers around Lady Tan, following her journey as a girl to a young woman who will ultimately become a physician of women and girls across all levels of society. Her story is inspired by the true story of Tan Yunxian and based on writings in Yunxian’s own words, Miscellaneous Records of a Female Doctor.

One of the most impressive aspects of this novel is See's vivid and immersive descriptions of life in 15th-century China. She transports readers to a world of opulent mansions, intricate rituals, and political intrigue. See's writing is lyrical and richly detailed, capturing the sights, sounds, and smells of the time period. Readers will feel like they are right there with Lady Tan and her companions as they navigate the treacherous waters of life.

Tan and her confidantes are complex, multi-dimensional women who are fully realized on the page. See explores the challenges and joys of female friendship, as well as the struggles faced by women in a society that does not value them as equals. Lady Tan, in particular, is a captivating and inspiring character, who uses her power and intelligence to subvert expectations and fight for the rights of women. Overall, See's attention to detail and masterful storytelling make for a truly immersive reading experience. Fans of historical fiction, particularly those interested in stories about strong female characters, will find much to love in this book. ★★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

5 of 5 Stars
Pub Date 6 June 2023
#HistoricalFiction #LisaSee #LadyTan #CircleofWomen

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Based on the true story of ancient Chinese physician, Lady Tan Yunxian, we go through the four stages of her life: milk days, hair pinning days, rice and salt days, and sitting quietly days.

This is my favorite Lisa See book so far! I was hooked from the very beginning. Learning the inner life of an elite 15th century Chinese woman was absolutely fascinating. All the details: the isolation, the clothes, the footbinding; it was all intriguing and educational as well. Lady Tan is a great character as she brings the traditions of the times but shows some pizzaz as well. The medical details was interesting as well, as it was learning an entirely different approach to medicine. I highly recommend this saga that is traditional, with a touch of feminism as well!

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

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women comes out 6/6.

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Completely fascinating look at the life of a female doctor in chinese history. Lady Tan's Circle of Women continues See's tradition of rich storytelling focusing on complicated, strong female characters.

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I love Lisa See’s books. They transport me to times and places I’ll never be a part of and yet I finish her books feeling as if I was just there. This one was just as fascinating and I enjoyed every page. Lady Tan came alive and her character was very real to me. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

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I love Lisa See! I am not a typical historical fiction reader, but I always enjoy what she writes. This will probably be a book club pick for us soon.

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Lady Tan begins with an 8 year old girl who is in 1400s China where 15 year old are married off, feet bound, and made to produce sons as heirs. We follow our heroine as she learns to “doctor” with pulse checks and familial remedies. Through marriage, birth, disease and even mysteries we learn about life in China for women, concubines, scholars, midwives and doctors.

I enjoyed much of this book though some parts were far more interesting than others to me. I frankly found a lot of the “old ways” reminded me of handmaids Tale. Marrying of young, horrible punishments, concubines and scheming women. The times were harsh but the author makes it sound beautiful at least in terms of the surroundings and growing influence of women.

Those that are historical fiction fans and fans of See’s former novels will love this and I’ve already seen raves.

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Lady Tan’s Circle of Women follows the life of Yuxian, an upper-class Chinese girl. Chinese culture permeates the book as we learn about traditions and rites, punishments, and the ways of men and women. Women lead VERY restrictive lives, yet Yuxian craves to practice medicine that she learned from her Grandmother. We follow her life into marriage, motherhood, and beyond. It is a beautiful rendering of a woman’s life much different from mine. The setting was fascinating and frightening all at once. The first half of the book was setting up the plot and this was a bit slow. The second half was worth it, as the plot sped up and revealed things I was not expecting. Excellent and beautifully-rendered book.

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Beautiful beautiful writing style, it is so stunning, the prose in this made me tear up multiple times. It was hard to read at times cause of the relatable aspects, I appreciate the author for the representation. I’m now obsessed with them. One of my favorites of the year for sure!

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. This will appear on goodreads as soon as it is published.
Applause! Applause!
I haven’t met a Lisa See book I did not like, and I am grateful to the gods of Covid for bringing us some fine works and inspiration during the shutdown!
The title, cover, and description says it all. The first woman doctor in China, breaking stereotypes, learning from her elders, and brining honor to her family.
The storytelling is brilliant as the scenes bloom all around you. The characters are easy to follow and interesting, leaving few two-dimensional ones to bore you. Not a short book, but one you don’t want to put down once it latches on,
My only complaint is now I have to wait how long for another Lisa See book?
This is one my book club would enjoy, it has everything!
5* Encore, encore!

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Rich in descriptive language and strong character development “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women” is an engaging and compelling read. I felt like I was transported to fifteenth century China into the privileged world of Tan Yunxian . When circumstances brought her to the loving home of her grandparents, Yunxian was groomed and educated to follow in the footsteps of her physician grandmother, at a time when male doctors could not physically examine women.
Thinking about archaic medical practices in Europe of that time, such as bloodletting and use of leaches to cure disease, the Chinese method of examination consisting of looking, listening, touching and asking, are still essential to the practice of medicine today.
Isolation and loneliness were no strangers to Yunxian. Since doctors were not permitted to touch blood, it is no surprise that female doctors in China, forged a bond with the local midwives. Yunxian found a friend in, Meiling, the midwife’s daughter, and the two vowed to remain friends forever.
When the time comes, Yunxian is sent off to be married, where tradition forced her to separate from the family and friends that loved and nurtured her, to the home of her wealthy in laws where she was expected to be obedient to her mother in law, do assigned tasks and of course produce male heirs. Her heart longed for the people she left behind as she slowly finds her way in the world- always with the unexpected help of other women ranging from concubines and servants to even the empress.
Lisa See is a talented writer. There is a reason I have hungrily devoured every one of her books. In this remarkably poignant and impeccably researched piece of historical fiction, Lisa See is at her best. I loved this book. Be sure to look for it on on the publication date Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
Many thanks to #Netgalley and publisher #Simon and Shuster for providing me with and ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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