Reviews by patricia alvis
Boring and tedious sums it up
Read at urging of friends wondering why it was getting so much attention.
Question: Do publishers find it more profitable to publish such long books and pass cost of paper to gullible consumers than to hire a qualified editor to take out the trash?
I read it in audio book format, one dreary disk per day.
In summary, take a completely unlikable main character and spend 771 pages arguing that the reader should care what happens to him. Throw in references to Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, figuring, probably correctly, that few of your readers will have read it, but will be impressed that you have.
Note to the all-American Ms. Tartt: there are nice people in Russia.
Note 2 to Ms. Tartt: The whole preciousness of the art object in contemporary life has to do with greed and competition, and very little to do with intrinsic artistic value. The spiel at the end is hardly convincing in light of all that goes on before.
But in the end, you fooled a lot of people. For me, it's a gain in one way. Next time someone recommends a Donna Tartt book, I will happily reread The Idiot, Now that's a really good book.
Rip-bodice romance or Fem titillation?
This hefty volume offers an extensive view of the institution of courtesan houses in China,. its roler to provide pastime enjoyment for wealthy men. In elegant setting, carefully trained girls and women aged 14 or 15 to about 25 provided conversation, food and drink, instrumental and vocal music, dance, recitation of poetry and stories,The courtesan used her charms to elicit jewelry and money as tips for special favors, including sex. A clever courtesan's future might be to own and manage a house. As part of a rigidly structured society,a woman's choices were marriage, often as part of a hierarchy of wives, concubinage, a sort of secondary level monogamous relationship, or as a courtesan. Beyond these roles, probably the next in terms of some degree of security would be as servants. Excluded from these, the options were begging, theft, and prostitution.

It should be noted that none of these roles offered a woman any choice. In all, a woman was a purchase item. Only luck or cleverness might shield a woman from neglect or abuse. Better a wife than a beggar or whore, in terms of food and shelter. Not much to choose in terms of autonomy.

In this context, Tan creates a set of characters trying to make the best of the situation they've fallen into. This she does with her usual skill.

What prompts my cynical title is behaviors by the women more familiar in the Harlequin romance--the flouncing out, the pouting, the yearning for the handsome charmer. Or is this, I thought, listening to a book club discussion, intended to trigger our feminist outrage, 21st century style, to post-Imperial Republican China? In the end, a monumental research effort that provides the setting for too many examples of individual behavior, making for tedious reading about a fascinating cultural phenomenon.
Fun in Paradise
A wonderful bunch of actors make this always fun. Ben Miller is a perfect fish out of water.
Interesting Times, Times of Change
Goodwin is a thorough researcher and writes readable prose, which contribute to make this an important history of this period. Aside from getting to know a lot about two of our truly great leaders, there are wonderful details of where things were at the time--the US senators chosen by the state legislators, not by popular vote; the presidential candidate aloof from politics; his first public appearance his acceptance of his candidacy.(will we yearn for that over the next months?). Integral to the quality of the report,Goodwin describes the role of the reformist journalists, the so-called "muckrakers", centering on S. S. McClure and his assembly of writers.
An outrageous story
First you think he's gutsy, if a little cantankerous, as he sets off in his pink slippers. Then you begin to suspect he's not exactly an admirable character. And then you just wait to see what he'll do next, and find yourself laughing out loud. The other characters are equally off-center, in this neatly ironic look at human existence