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Book Review: Red Lotus by Pai Kit Fai

Red Lotus by Pai Kit Fai

This epic novel is action-packed and completely unputdownable. It grips from the opening chapters. ‘Number Four,’ an elderly farmer’s beautiful but wilful fifteen-year-old concubine, gives birth to a ‘worthless’ girl-child. When the farmer is on his way to bury the child in a field – the same place he has buried previous newborn girls – a fox fairy appears. The farmer quickly decides to spare his daughter, superstitiously fearful of the fairy fox. Meanwhile the concubine manages to escape the clutches of his three legal wives, and thinking her daughter is dead, throws herself to her death. The farmer names his daughter Li X’ia – the Beautiful One – and later decides when she is old enough he will bind her feet in the forbidden practice of the Golden Lotus so he can sell her for a high price.

Red Lotus boasts exotic settings, wonderful detail and fantastic characters with villains who are truly despicable – and heroines who are beautiful and courageous and who battle on despite the overwhelming odds. This wonderful novel is a ‘Yes! No! reading experience.’ By that I mean that I spent much of the book shouting, ‘No! You can’t let that happen’, and the rest of the book, saying, ‘Yes! Yes! Now it looks like everything is finally coming right.’

The book spans three generations of women – the concubine who kills herself in the first chapter, her daughter Li X’ia who becomes a scholar and falls in love with a mysterious ‘foreign devil’, and her daughter who becomes a fierce warrior. This is a highly entertaining read, and some of the story is apparently based on the ancestry of the author’s wife. Evocative, original and memorable, this is a book I would highly recommend. You won’t want to put it down until you have reached the glorious end.

#bookreviews #historicalfiction

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