From the Archives: Book 17: "The Concubine's Daughter" by Pai Kit Fai

"The Concubine's Daughter" by Pai Kit Fai
Verdict: Not a fan

This book was a struggle for me to finish. It claims to be in the same vein as "Memoirs of a Geisha" on its cover which is completely false. The only thing they have in common is that they both take place in Asia. The book follows three generations (focusing on two) of women in China. The main problem I think this book had was that the author tried to cover too much. I appreciate the culture that went into the writing which made the story more interesting, but covering the life of two women from childhood through adulthood is too much for one book to handle effectively. The book ends up focusing on culture aspects over the characters, which I am never a fan of in this type of literature.
The first generation is represented through Pai Ling- a wealthy family's daughter who is sold as a concubine to a wealthy farmer. It follows her from her arrival at the farm through the birth of her daughter, Li Xia. Since she believes the father plans to kill Li Xia, Pai Ling throws herself from a window and kills herself. You follow Li Xia through her life- she also gives birth and meets her end at the same time, also tragically. Her daughter Siu Sing, of course lives out her life and manages to break the cycle. I was quickly bored with the tragic element of the storyline. Nothing good happens to the characters and anything that does is quickly given retribution with something more tragic than the last.
The narration style also provides a distance from reader to character that made it difficult to connect with the story. Instead of third person, it is a story that would have been better served in first. This is also what kept me from reading the book incessantly as it was difficult for me to stay involved; consequently it took me longer than usual to finish.
In conclusion, this book is interesting for the look at China's culture that it offers, but not great as far a character storyline.