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October 2016: Historical Fiction > The Warning Voice by Cao Xueqin

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments The Warning Voice is the third volume of the Story of the Stone saga by Cao Xueqin. It is considered one of China's four great classical novels and was written in the 18th century. I believe this volume (there are 5 total) is the final volume that was completed by Cao Xueqin and the remaining two volumes were completed from his extensive notes. All together the book tells the rise and fall of the Jia family, an aristocratic family in China during the Qing dynasty. It is believed to be semi-autobiographical, based on the author's own family. It is believed to be a masterpiece of Chinese literature although surprisingly few Western readers have actually read the book.

Volume 3 continues the saga of the Jia family. In this volume readers see signs of what may signal an upcoming decline in the family's fortunes. Money difficulties are hinted at but not taken seriously by most in the family. Volume three highlights the cracks in the surface of the family by taking us inside their domestic lives.

I enjoyed this volume more than the previous one which for me was too filled with poetry (which either didn't translate well or I didn't enjoy). I really liked the detail of domestic hierarchy in the household and found the hierarchy between the maids and ladies to be fascinating and very complex.

The books together can be somewhat dry and overly details at times. This volume was actually more filled with intrigue and soap opera-like events. The wonderful thing about these volumes is that they really give you a very detailed picture of life for an aristocratic family in 18th century China. I loved learning about the rituals, ceremonies, and cultural traditions. A fascinating read for the Western reader who may have interest but little exposure to Chinese literature.

message 2: by Regina Lindsey (new)

Regina Lindsey | 1005 comments Well, blow me down! I feel I usually have a good handle on non-western writers but I've never heard of this series. Going to add the first one to my TBR

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