Secret of a Thousand Beauties
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Set against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip's enthralling novel explores one woman's defiant pursuit of independence.
Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.
In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting--a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.
Praise For The Novels Of Mingmei Yip
"A unique and enthralling style. . .flawless." –Baltimore Books Examiner on The Nine Fold Heaven
"Surprising and often funny. . .Part epic, part coming-of-age story, part modern fairy tale." --Publishers Weekly on Song of the Silk Road
"A serious, engaging story of faith, devotion, and the commingling of cultures." –Booklist on Petals From the Sky
of the complexes, carrying a plate of food. We hurried to her, and I asked, “Please, shifu, can you tell us where the nursing home for women is?” “Who are you looking for?” This time Little Doll answered eagerly, “We want to see our teacher, Aunty Peony.” To my surprise, a shock shadowed the nun’s face. “Oh, her . . .” “Doesn’t she live here?” “She did . . . but no more.” “What do you mean—what happened?” Aunty was lucky to be housed by a Buddhist temple, so why would she have left for
snails as we both tried to think of what to say. Finally, I gathered up my courage, and asked, “Mr. Shen, were you really . . . waiting for me?” “Yes, for a long time I have been coming up here to practice my flute. Since I first saw your writing I have been hoping to meet you.” “I like your playing . . . but it is sad.” “Yes, indeed.” I didn’t feel I should ask him what he was sad about, so instead I asked, “Why so early in the morning?” “I like to see the sunrise. And I’ve been worried
the elixir of love. After we greeted each other, she went to take a bath, and I headed to the kitchen. Soon we were noisily slurping spicy noodles and crunching stir-fried vegetables. I said, “Sister Purple, you look happy.” “Well, because I am happy.” “You went to see him?” Her face bloomed with a mischievous smile. “Spring Swallow, you must promise never to tell anyone about this; otherwise, I’ll tear your lips off!” “Trust me, Sister Purple, my lips are sealed as tight as a coffin.” She
lover, the emperor himself. But maybe she now loved Soaring Crane so much that she had no interest in this token of an earlier love. But I knew Aunty better than this. She would not leave something so valuable behind unless, under the stress of the moment, she had simply forgot. I sighed. I hoped the love between me and Shen Feng was not fleeting like Aunty’s. But with Shen Feng gone so long without a word from him, I found I was thinking of him less. Though not by my choice, my life was going
After that, he disappeared into smoke and dust, leaving a trail of ghostly curses. I woke up, sweating heavily. I was getting a bad feeling about Li Wenyi. Could I pull out now? I didn’t think so, unless I ran away—again. Old Li and Ping had already booked the wedding banquet, sent out invitations, and gotten everything ready—clothes, wine, dried seafood, red wedding cakes, lucky money, firecrackers, celebratory banners.... Two weeks later, a red curtained huaqiao, a “flower palanquin,” carried