Peach Blossom Pavilion: a fascinating tale. An often sad but beautifully written and sensitive insight into Chinese prostitution houses. That the heroine is eventually able to make a new life for herself brings tensions and depth to the tale. Her character is lovingly painted which serves to put her enforced slavery into a deeper context.
To the Western eye these establishments are offensive. We consider the girls as sex slaves, but there was more to it than that. Within these ‘houses of pleasure’ there was a hierarchy and a career, one that allowed girls to not only become favourites of their customers but also favourites of those who ran the house. These favoured girls could earn fortunes as a result and eventually buy their freedom and live on their substantial earnings. Of course, there were also many who were less fortunate and it is of them we must also think. They were subjected to beatings and other punishments if they failed to please their clients.
The heroine in this book not only rises to become a favoured ‘artist of love’, but she is also determined to escape without giving her owners the satisfaction of receiving money to buy that freedom. It is this that provides the tension throughout the text.
A good read, immersing us in a fascinating and perhaps dark world in which, nevertheless, there is light, love and the triumph of the human spirit.
This review was first published on the author’s Facebook page in November 2019.