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The Rouge of the North by Eileen Chang
Description (via University of California Press)

The Rouge of the North is the story of Yindi, a beautiful young bride who marries the blind, bedridden son of a rich and noble family. Captive to household ritual, to the strategies and contempt of her sisters-in-law, and to the exacting dictates of her husband's mother, Yindi is pressed beneath the weight of an existence that offers no hope of change. Dramatic events in the outside world fail to make their way into this insular society. Chang's brilliant portrayal of the slow suffocation of passion, moral strength, and physical vitality—together with her masterful evocation of the sights, smells, and sounds of daily existence—make The Rouge of the North a remarkable chronicle of a vanished way of life.

My Impressions
I kept reading because of the details about daily life, about the coded messages in everything and the change in societal attitudes over the lifetime of the main character, Yindi, but wow, I couldn't help feeling relief that this is not my life.

I left the foreword (by David Der-wai Wang) till last. It added context for the story in terms of giving more detail about the author's life but it felt very formal and distant; I wasn't sure if the writer even liked the story.

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Vampires but not in the way stories are usually written about them. ('Fun' fact: Apparently it was also published in the same year as 'Twilight' - 2005.) At first, it seemed like Butler was going with a mystery vibe because the main character Shori was trying to figure out who had hurt her but once that was figured out (relatively easily) the rest of the book was basically about her people (the Ina) coming to a decision about the perpetrators. Also, there was a lot of world-building, which I really enjoyed reading about - the details about how the Ina have lived over the years, their culture, their relationship with their human symbionts (including the details about needing more than one, the relationships between the symbionts for one Ina, the fact that they need to eat and the details about their food preparation). The issues of race and of the consent/willingness of the symbiont relationship were interesting to read about if also somewhat uncomfortable (e.g. the sex/feeding scenes) and, of course, not fully resolved but I didn't mind for this book.


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January 2013

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