[ Read Online ] The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines (English Edition)Author Pim Wiersinga – Albawater.co

In the closing years of the eighteenth century, the once great Qianlong dynasty languishes in a morass of corruption and waste The emperor, formerly the powerful ruler of a thriving dynasty, is now the feeble tool of his devious minister, Heshen, who plies his ruler with opium and whispers shadowy innuendos into his receptive ear This dark stagnancy is abruptly interrupted when the English envoy of King George III refuses to perform the traditional obeisance the kowtow The Imperial Interpreter Second Class, the alluring Lady Cao Baoquin, assigned to the English embassy, is consequently incarcerated in the Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, destined to end her days among these forlorn flowers of decades past Lady Cao, however, is much than she appears to be rumors whisper of her mysterious association with the much revered author of the Dream of the Red Chambera novel as politically dangerous as it is galvanizing Loved by a stalwart Dutch diplomat, coveted by the Grand Censor, and scorned by the power seeking Heshen, Lady Cao is a delicate pillar of indomitable strength and fortitude Set amidst the intrigue of a dilapidated court, The Pavilion of Forgotton Concubines is a work of lyrical eloquence in which one woman emerges as the most unexpected of heroes a woman who, through the indomitable power of her ink reed, will defy an empire In Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines, Pim Wiersinga has created a well researched view of life in 18th century China among people of a refined class Building on Cao Xueqin s famous novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber, Wiersinga imagines the life of Lady Cao, Cao Xueqin s intellectually sophisticated concubine, and her life after this early disquieting and lovingly remembered time in the good Lady s life.Wiersinga s depiction of Lady Cao takes risks She is not an entirely likable person She will go against her own wishes just to spite someone else she believes is trying to tell her what to do She is self possessed, even egotistical But she has a refinement and intellect that is appealing In a sense, she is both protagonist and antagonist.This Dutch author restricts European characters to comparatively minor roles Dutch Ambassador Isaac Titsingh is important to the story and place in history while most prominently serving as a means of further developing Lady Cao s character He is often not in the scene but somewhere spatially remote, reinforcing that maintenance of emotional distance that controls Lady Cao s thoughts and behavior.Similarly, the character of the historical figure, British Envoy Macartney, serves as a stark contrast between Eastern and Western cultural norms, with his mission to acquire one way benefits for Britain, a mission that failed for its very disrespect in a culture where hierarchical respect, to this day, is fundamental.For those with little knowledge of this era in China, reading the preface notes that discuss the book and Wiersinga s own Oh, Gentle Reader preface assist the reader in understanding context than the novel can take on while remaining coherent.Perhaps the riskiest literary choice in Pavilion is that of using an epistolary form, one that is presented entirely as correspondence between Lady Cao and those with whom she has personal reasons for communicating Often, the primary reason is that she wants something from the other person, but often she also shares descriptions of her thoughts and behaviors where she portrays herself with some degree of self admiration.A confession I have a loving connectedness with correspondence carried out on linen paper with a fountain pen I am predisposed to appreciate a novel written with such a manner of communication Written correspondence has a permanence that spoken dialog cannot have For a novel about a culture in which history and tradition are so central, sharing a story in terms of Lady Cao s correspondence serves as an echo of Chinese values The diction and topics of each character s letters provide insights into that character As with any written correspondence worthy of a pen, these letters convey each character s perspective whether that comes from their station in life, their sociopolitical allegiances, or their feelings about the recipient of their missives.The challenge of the epistolary form is that it is so difficult to keep the story as a showing of what transpires rather than as that one step away telling about what has transpired Lady Cao s correspondence, in particular, can be long and winding as it tells the reader her version of her backstory and of events This befits the character, however, as it allows her to control the narrative.Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines offers Western readers such a special opportunity to peer into 18th century China through a Chinese looking glass. The Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines is a luscious book that transports the reader back to 18th century China, right from the first page When the British lord, George McCartney fails to kowtow for the Emperor, Imperial Interpreter Lady Cao Baoqin is sent to prison for improperly preparing the envoy After the strongman at Court, Heshen, takes her to the dungeon, the Emperor intervenes and transfers her to the Pavilion of Forgotten Concubines to serve her sentence Thus begins the rich correspondence between Lady Cao Baoqin and the Emperor, and branches out to the many characters of the book, whose lives intertwine with hers in the effort to preserve the original copy of the book The Dream of the Red Chamber, written by her former lover, Xuequin, and in which she appears as a fictional character.Author Pim Wiersinga, creates a multi layered world within the tightly controlled life of Lady Cao Baoqin, through the letters that travel to and from the Pavilion This rich, authentic storytelling swept me away into a world so far from my own that I truly felt I was escaping Wiersinga expertly weaves a multi dimensional story with an authentic voice, reflecting the customs and manners of this ancient Chinese culture The voice and viewpoint of Lady Cao Baoqin are so well constructed I was impressed that the author, a male, was able to capture the female perspective so well I loved the sections of the book where Lady Cao Baoqin relaxed her tough exterior and reflected on the gentle and passionate nature of her love for Xuequin Some of the sections I read over several times as they were so evocative and doing so moved me to near tears This is a book I plan to read again, as I feel many of the subtle nuances escaped me It will be an absolute joy to revisit this book and the characters again in the near future This book will not disappoint the historical reader it has everything one could want lyrical language, a rich historical backdrop, love, political intrigue, passion and a twist ending A fabulous work