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The Red Chamber

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,704 ratings  ·  242 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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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,704 ratings  ·  242 reviews

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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 Dream of
Jan 27, 2013 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 w ...more
Oct 15, 2015 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
Christina Dudley
Jul 20, 2012 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 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 schoo ...more
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 s ...more
Jo Anne B
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wish there were more books like this because I would read them all day long. I absolutely loved this book. You really got to know the characters inside and out. I always look forward to reading about the ancient Chinese. Such a fascinating culture. The theme of course centered around what choices a woman in China in the 1700s had. Very heart wrenching and enlightening.
Lauren K
Sep 28, 2012 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 fa ...more
Jul 10, 2012 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
Sep 10, 2012 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
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
From the moment I picked up The Red Chamber, I couldn't put it down. Poor little country girl Daiyu is sent to her well-off relatives in the Capital after the death of the her mother. It is set in early 18th century China. What Daiyu finds in the women's quarters of noble Jia family, is a soap opera of political intrigue, romance and unlikely alliances.

Author Pauline Chen based this novel on a famous work of Chinese literature - The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xuequin. She condensed it down,
Sep 15, 2012 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
Jul 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sorry to say that despite really wanting to like this book I really did not like it. I think there's just too much Harem Intrigue, too many concubines worrying about sex, too much jealousy, and I guess it's just too much of a romantic romance for my taste .
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
A novel I picked up in the library shortly before Valentine's day.
They had decorated a small section in which they had stalled books with red covers.

I thought that was adorable and ended up choosing two random books to try.
This was the first that I read, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The Red Chamber is a novel about a wealthy Chinese family living in Bejing during the 18th century. It centers specifically around the women of that family, and their fate.
Women in that day and age didn't have many
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
Sep 15, 2012 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
Wendy Hines
Jul 07, 2013 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
Feb 14, 2015 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 11, 2013 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
Jan 22, 2016 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.
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it

The Bold and the beautiful of 18th century Beijing.
Wow. This is ... one heck of a story filled in 381 pages. It's the kind of drama and twist-filled story I could maybe compare to a long Netflix or AMC series, only with less violence and misogyny on behalf of the writers.

Book content warnings:
- incest (cousins ~ time period-specific)

In the author's note, Pauline Chen says The Red Chamber is inspired by an 18th Century book that's widely thought to be the most important book in Chinese literature: Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xuequin.

In Paulin
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pauline Chen has written a new 'version' of one of the four greatest books in China 'The Dream of the Red Chamber' aka 'The Story of the Stone'.

The original book, written by Cao Xueqin, is huge - 2500 pages (in its English translation) divided into four volumes. Since it was first published - over 200 years ago - scholars have discussed and analysed it, to the extent that there is now an accepted academic field called "Redology".

For Western readers, Chen's interpretation is a great, easily read
3.5 stars

This is a retelling of a Chinese classic book, but pared down. Chen took out some of the characters and storylines and cut down the text substantially (from, I think, over 1000 pages).

It’s the early 18th century. Daiyu is left an orphan and must travel to live with the rest of her family. Her grandmother never forgave Daiyu’s mother for leaving. Daiyu meets her cousins and it doesn’t take long to fall in love with one of them, Baoyu, but she doesn’t have a hope of becoming betrothed to
Nov 21, 2016 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
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book on account of a Chinese friend of mine who is utterly obsessed with Honglou Meng. "You must read it someday," he says, then adds wistfully, "Oh, but it's not nearly as good unless you read it in classical Chinese."

Reading the original may be out of my reach in this lifetime, but I was very satisfied by this English retelling. It has all the elements of a quality costume drama: a lavish setting, household politics, love triangles, the struggle between duty and desire.

Books with
Kaffeeklatsch and Books
Jul 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical, 2020, asian
DNF at 150 pages.

I so wanted to like this. I love Asian historical fiction and fiction in general and I was hoping that this would be similar to "Pachinko" or "Memoirs of a Geisha" as Arthur Golden blurbed it on the cover.
The topic was interesting and I haven't managed to find a good Chinese historical fiction.

The Red Chamber was just so incredibly flat - like a two week old already opened coke bottle. I couldn't connect with any of the characters in the book and it was boring!

The Red Chamber -
Cat Bezubiak
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I found is fascinating and educational. There are very few books available in English about historical China and many of them are convoluted and difficult to read, but this one was great. It's definitely written by a native English speaker, but if you are reading as someone who speaks English as a first language that just makes it an easier read. I particularly liked that it had a section the explained pronunciations of Chinese names. Added a level of authenticity to the book ...more
Melissa Taylor
Nov 17, 2016 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. ;)
Sandy King
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While I felt like this book began a little awkwardly, by the end I realised how much I loved it. The story is elegant in plot and scope, the characters well-developed and true to life, culture and place in history. The writing prowess of the author seemed to improve as she progressed with the book. Maybe Pauline Chen was just finding her feet. Overall, this is a beautiful portrait of life in imperial China for a high-ranking family with a long history of Mandarin scholars. I hope to read more of ...more
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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.

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