Vanessa's Reviews > Bound Feet & Western Dress

Bound Feet & Western Dress by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang
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's review
Aug 04, 2011

it was amazing

Listened to the audio version of this book. Was great to hear the author's voice even though the production quality wasn't all that great.

I have been a fan of Xu Zhimo ever since I read his most famous poem "Saying Good-bye to Cambridge Again." It's a beautiful poem and even more beautiful in Chinese. My favorite stanza:
"Very quietly I take my leave,
As quietly as I came here;
Gently I flick my sleeves,
Not even a wisp of cloud will I bring away."

His poetry is so enchanting, beautiful, fluid.

Well, you can imagine that I was surprised to find out that he's actually kind of a jerk and an irresponsible father.

This book is about the first wife of the famous Xu Zhimo as told by her grand niece, Natasha Chang. It followed Zhang YouYi's hardships and how she dealt with betrayal, loss, and the ever-changing time period that she lived in. I love reading accounts of Chinese family history. Other books like "Factory Girls" by Leslie Chang and "Falling Leaves" Adeline Yeh Mah are other great examples where you can learn interesting Chinese family stories.

The narrative of Zhang YouYi is very well crafted and her grand niece does an excellent job in putting her own reflections without taking away from the main objective of the story. There was just enough of her voice but not too much to distract. She's a good story-teller.

This is a good read for those who are interested in the history and development of modern China and the thought process of those living in that period.

The amazing thing about family histories are that they follow one story and so you learn about history through a very focused lens, enough to interest a variety of readers. Stories are the most powerful tools of retelling history.

If you have any other recommendations of Chinese family histories you would like to share with me, please leave a comment below. I'm planning on reading "On Gold Mountain" by Lisa See soon.
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