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The Red Chamber

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  1,277 Ratings  ·  213 Reviews
In this lyrical reimagining of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber, set against the breathtaking backdrop of eighteenth-century Beijing, the lives of three unforgettable women collide in the inner chambers of the Jia mansion. When orphaned Daiyu leaves her home in the provinces to take shelter with her cousins in the Capital, she is drawn into a world of opulent s ...more
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Knopf (first published 2012)
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa SeeThe Good Earth by Pearl S. BuckGenghis by Conn IgguldenThe Red Chamber by Pauline A. ChenThe Last Empress by Anchee Min
History through Novels: Pre-1900s China
4th out of 46 books — 42 voters
Jumping Ship by Janice  RossShanghai Girls by Lisa SeeGeisha, a Life by Mineko IwasakiThe Long Song by Andrea LevyAll the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
Girls In Dresses (poc)
12th out of 76 books — 27 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews)
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

4.5 out of 5

After a bit of a slow start that was almost soap operatic in nature due to the sheer amount of secrets, lies, betrayals and affairs abounding, The Red Chamber impressed me with its scope and tragedy. Though I had anticipated an impending Tragedy with overtones of Old Timey Romantical Problems, this novel is far more than just love-triangles in powerful family. Based on one of China's Four Great Classical Novels, the 18th-century The Drea
Jul 09, 2016 Kavita rated it liked it
This is a retelling of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber, but I don't know whether Chen does a good job with it or not because I have not yet read the original. But it's certainly something to which I look forward. So, this book follows the ups and downs in the lives of a rich, aristocratic family in China. A Chinese Downton Abbey, so to speak. There is Baoyu, who is the heir to the family, the love of his live, Daiyu, and the girl he would marry, Baochai. The novel works its way thro ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Megan rated it liked it
Holy anachronisms, Batman. This hugely entertaining, if not particularly well-written reimagining of Cao Xueqin's 18th century classic, is full of clunky phrases like "Pan had killed someone. Could he actually escape scot-free?" (it must be noted that "scot-free" shows up not once but TWICE. Does Knopf not hire editors or what?) and hilariously unsubtle observations like "She feels oppressed by the weight of being the perfect daughter". At one point, the phrase "adieu" is used in a riddle, and ...more
Christina Dudley
Aug 14, 2012 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it
Reading THE RED CHAMBER reminded me of visiting my paternal grandmother, who was forever watching Chinese soap operas with elaborately-costumed and highly made-up players who cried and fought and made pronouncements to dramatic camera angles and music. Whenever we asked what was happening, it was always something over the top. An affair. A secret disclosed. Unknown relations revealed. She was hooked. And though we couldn't follow a word, my sister and I would end up staring at the TV right along ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Snort rated it it was ok
I had a few youthful fantasies, of which being an inscrutable Oriental (achieved with jasmine scented face powder and almond oil, as we learn) and a romantic death from consumption featured quite heavily. This was due to extravagant imaginings of the frail, waif-like Lin Daiyu, not so much fair as she is pale, like a bruised gardenia laid to rest. Truth be said, I have always been drawn to "The Dream of the Red Chamber" (or better known in Mandarin as "Hong Lou Meng"), for our willowy high ...more
Jul 10, 2012 Betty rated it really liked it
The Red Chamber is based on the 18th century China's classic novel, "Dreams of the Red Chamber." Author, Pauline Chen has taken some of the original characters from the book to weave an intriguing tale of life in the opulent women's quarters of a privileged Beijing family of that era. The story follows the lives of three strong women who forge a friendship in a world where they are at the mercy, not only of their husbands, but their older female relatives as well.

For anyone wishing to understand
Rebecca Huston
This condensation and adaption of Cao Xuequin's The Story of the Stone or the Dream of the Red Chamber is actually much better than I thought it would be. Set in eighteenth century China, poor cousin Daiyu arrives at the Jia family home in Beijing and a series of events are set up, chronicling the apogee and downfall of the Jias. What I liked the best is that the author was able to make these people from another time and place very accessable. Recommended for those who like exotic settings, or ...more
Lauren K
Oct 01, 2012 Lauren K rated it it was amazing
The Red Chamber is an exceptionally written family drama that spans from 1721- 1736 in Beijing that explores the undercurrents of love, loss, self-gratification, betrayal and hope of those who reside in the Jia estate. Inspired by the original Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber, Chen brings to life the strong women in the household during a time where women were severely oppressed. Marriages were arranged by the parents; women were not encouraged to have an education and must never lose ...more
Sep 10, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
I once tried reading an English translation of the Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber.
Even though I had studied the Chinese language quite a bit, it was too much for me. With more than 2500 pages, over 400 characters, intricate plots within plots, and a plethora of unfamiliar Chinese place names; it was just too confusing.

This "reimagining "of the story in English is accessible. Although the author is obviously an incredible scholar, it's also her first novel. As such, I don't think it's
If you don't have time for the classic this novel is based on (it has over 1000 pages and 400 characters!), then this may be a good alternative in the mean time. The story is condensed and an experienced reader with soon notice where the cuts begin, but it does offer a good and engrosing story to enjoy. Despite my gripes, it is a good novel and I can easily give it 3.5 stars.

This novels offers us a glimpse into this rich world of Qing China. The author gives us just the right amount of descript
Dec 06, 2012 Jeanette rated it really liked it
After reading the Intro I put off reading this book, as I thought it was going to be a difficult read- rather like the Russians since it is based on the 18th Century Chinese Classic and also within structures and sensibilities/mores very different than the West.

But it was a quick, clean and easy read. This had DRAMA. Short, direct words convey precise nuance. It takes place primarily within a closed environment of a wealthy home of one of the Emperor's ministers. 150-200 people live in this hou
Sep 15, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
Downton Abbey set in Beijing in the early 1700s. Our perspective on the privileged Jia family comes mostly through three women:

--Daiyu is the cousin who comes up from beautiful Suzhou after her mother dies;
--Baochai is insecure about her looks and her position, especially because her brother causes trouble; and
--Xifeng is the oldest daughter-in-law, working non-stop to keep the family going.

When the Jia family ends up on the wrong side of political change, the women's fortunes change dramati
Wendy Hines
Jul 07, 2013 Wendy Hines rated it really liked it

The Red Chamber is a grandiose piece of literature. A famous Chinese story, Dream of the Red Chamber, retold, Pauline Chen takes the reader into a world unlike any other. The novel is slow going, as the reader is introduced to the many characters and at times, it's hard to keep everyone straight. I had to write names down on an index card so that I could easily move it nearby as I read, but there is a family tree at the beginning of the book.

The Red Chamber follows three women in a world whose
Dec 13, 2015 Christine rated it liked it
I was stuck in the beginning for such a long time, I thought that I was going to end up giving up on this book. Next thing I know, I'm halfway through and it's time for me to go to bed. Do I actually sleep? Not a chance. I found that I couldn't stop reading because I really wanted to know what was going to happen next (though I didn't particularly love any of the characters; I was rather fond of Snowgoose though). It takes a while to get to that point though.

Definitely good for entertainment if
May 14, 2013 Meghan rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel. I love the Chinese culture, and have read several books on many different time periods of her history. This one is 18th century if I remember correctly. It follows the lives of three women whose destinies seem to collide. I personally found the book quite sad and tragic, but still rich and beautiful. I highly recommend The Red Chamber, which is based on an ancient Chinese text.
Sakura Lina
Aug 18, 2016 Sakura Lina rated it really liked it
I always love to read Chinese historical fiction.. So, i'm really enjoyed to read this book. The story about one big family and their life which is full of lies,lust and betrayal... Not everyone got the happy ending.
Aug 08, 2012 Piritta rated it liked it

The Bold and the beautiful of 18th century Beijing.
Nov 21, 2016 shirley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asian-fiction
I desperately wanted to read the original classic "The Dream of the Red Chamber" by Cao Xueqin written in the 18th century. The book was one of China's four great classical novels, and there are several operas, tv series based on the novel. Due to its enormous size, 4,000 pages, I never succeeded in my attempts at reading, habitually quitting after the first few chapters.

Imagine my delight when I found out that "The Red Chamber" is based on the classic, by someone who is a scholar and subject e
CMG (Mac)
Dec 01, 2016 CMG (Mac) rated it liked it
Interesting. Better in the first part than at the end. Some of their talk seems very modern - such as diapers and menstruation (periods) so inauthentic. Also, some of the relationships lacked development: advancing to love, hate or friendship in a flash. Same for the events at the end - like she ran out of steam.

Synopsis: Estranged daughter's daughter goes to visit the family after her mother dies. The family is full of intrigue including a stern grandmother, two jealous grandsons, an ambitious
Melissa Taylor
Nov 17, 2016 Melissa Taylor rated it liked it
It wasn't bad, but could have been better. It was slow, and it being a bridged novel based on another novel, it could have had more history. I also noticed right away, that the author, (which, she admits to), gave too much inaccuracy. "I depart from historical accuracy in the interest of narrative fluency." I disliked that. It makes for a good kid's book. Nice twist at the end though. ;)
Lisa Bryant
Oct 25, 2016 Lisa Bryant rated it liked it
3.5 Unsatisfactory ending or I might have given it 4 stars. I did enjoy the peek into that culture.
Forgotten Realms Queen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A retelling of the Chinese classic 红楼梦 (hong lou meng) or Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. A story I know nothing about, except its name – and fame. But Pauline A Chen’s reimagined version quickly draws me into the lives of the Jia family. More specifically, the women of the Jia family, who live in the beautiful palatial Rongguo Mansion in the Capital.

We join young Daiyu who has recently lost her mother to illness as she leaves her home in Suzhou to stay with the relatives she’s never met
Aug 04, 2012 Veronica rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, library
Pauline Chen’s new novel, The Red Chamber, is actually a retelling of a classic Chinese novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber. Chen’s version is severely truncated; the original novel is currently sold by Penguin in three volumes and was never finished. Chen freely admits she has taken many liberties with the story in order to better introduce it to Western audiences, she claims. I can in no way compare the two, since I had not even heard of the original before reading Chen’s book, so I will take ...more
Jan 17, 2013 Gianna rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian
I feel like a student who’s read the CliffsNotes version. In a way, this is what happened because The Red Chamber is an abridged re-writing of four classical, 18th-century novels. I cannot comment on how well Chen has captured the essence of the series, or how true she has stayed to the original characters and ideas. At its heart, the book is a family saga with all the spicy ingredients for a dramatic story. There are tension and jealousy among family members, an affair, and abandonment. There i ...more
Nancy Kaseta
Sep 16, 2016 Nancy Kaseta rated it did not like it
You would think that someone with 3 Ivy League educations could write a more realistic novel set in China in the 18th century. I don't mind the soap opera-y-ness of it, but it reads more like 20th century Chinatown. The language and behavior of the characters, especially the women, is completely unrealistic. I couldn't finish the book because I was so annoyed by these things. Too many other books to read to waste time on this.
Feb 24, 2014 Angigames rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Con abile maestria Pauline Chen ci riporta nella Cina del 1721 quando nascere in una famiglia benestante significava non avere alcuna possibilità di scelta.
Questo libro è tratto dal romanzo “Il sogno della camera rossa” del XVIII secolo di Cao Xueqin e considerato l’opera letteraria più importante della storia cinese, la Chen ha semplificato la storia –eliminando alcuni personaggi- e concentrato la narrazione sulle vicende della famiglia Jia e sulle vite di tre fantastiche donne: Daiyu, ragazza
Patricia C
Jun 08, 2015 Patricia C rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2013 Lark rated it it was ok
When Daiyu is orphaned and brought to the Jia's house in the Capital, it was beyond her imagination that she would soon be involved in the dangerous intrigue that happens behind beautiful smiles and welcoming facades. The reader follows the stories of three girls in this time period that leaves women with no choices of their own.

This story is a tragedy, for the most part. And I loved that about this book, that the ending was tragic instead of something happily ever after. It made the sorrows and
Judi/Judith Riddle
Dec 26, 2012 Judi/Judith Riddle rated it really liked it
I was totally enthralled with this epic story of an affluent family and their servants in eighteenth century Bejing, China. In fact it was the book that broke a serious book slump that I was in and I was thankful for that.

While everyone in the household of Rongguo appears to be a calm and loving family, scandalous secrets abound and the jealousy is rampant among the relatives. The story of the Jia family centers around three of the women in the household and their stories along with their lover
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Pauline A. Chen earned her B.A. in classics from Harvard, her J.D. from Yale Law School, and her Ph.D. in East Asian studies from Princeton. She has taught Chinese language, literature, and film at the University of Minnesota and Oberlin College. She is also the author of a novel for young readers, Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas, and lives in Ohio with her two children.
More about Pauline A. Chen...

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