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A great story! Enjoy reading it, March 14, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

I enjoyed very much reading this book. I could not put this interesting family saga down! Amy Kwei's imagination brilliantly makes the characters come to life. She calls it a novel, yet it is obviously the story of her family. I learned much that I did not know about Chinese culture and tradition as well as life in the 1930s to the beginning of World War II. The facts were well researched. This is a most moving account of the tragic binding of women's feet and its consequences on one woman - the grandmother. I never understood why a country so highly civilized and refined in art and poetry could afflict such cruelty on the women in its upper class. How the grandmother as a child yearned to have fun running around with her brother, but was prevented to do so by her crippled feet.

   The description of the war and hardshiops of the Japanese occupation is vividly narrated and the upheaval war brought upon China. Yet the humanity of some Japanese-Americans is also beautifully described. Despite all these tragic happenings, the author keeps a positive and hopeful attitude.

   The novel is full of suspense and I hope the author is already working on a sequel and will not disappoint her readers, who are anxious to know how her family fared in the future.

   This book is a treasure!

By William Lytle

Chinese Culture and Family Survival in Wartime, March 13, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

I've just finished reading Amy Kwei's book, "A Concubine For The Family," and I recommend it without reservation. It's a wonderfully written story with intriguing information about an upper class Chinese family and the culture in general in the 1930s. The setting is the start of WWII with the invasion by the Japanese, which challenges the unity of the family and the very survival of its members.

By Gileresa

Interesting family history, February 8, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

I have recently finished reading this book which is a novel (no pun meant) way to write a family history. It is a good read indeed. Can you judge a book by its cover? Not always. But the colourful cover in this case caught my eye and I did send away for this book because of its intriguing title and the promise of a good story.

   When I first opened the book I laughed out loud at the author's statement that she would certainly not be giving her husband a concubine for his birthday as her Grandma, (her name here) had done. I found the description of (her name here)'s life in Hangzhou in the early 30's fascinating , the details of family life with servants and sumptuous meals and the explanation of domestic architecture including the courtyards and gardens, the background of (name here)'s everyday life with her husband (his name here) and daughters. Golden Bell and Silver Bell. Because the writing was so vivid I suffered with ( her name) because of her painful deformed feet, especially when she tried to walk. When she was only three years old her toes had been broken and her feet had been bound and pushed into what was then considered to be a feminine shape.

   There are vivid descriptions an opium den, of Chinese food and of Chinese medicine and terrible accounts of the Japanese invasions of Shanghai and surrounds. There are tragic outcomes for the family during this time. The details of life under the Japanese reminded me of the great fear of invasion felt by my parents and other Australians during World War II.

   Although the novel ends with the family again fleeing, this time from Hong Kong, there is a story of hope too as (name here) becomes all the time more sought after as an expert in treating patients with Chinese remedies.

   One finishes the story wondering which of (their names here)'s daughters, Golden Bell or Silver Bell, was the author's mother.

   As I've already said, `Concubine' is a very good read, a wonderful book.

By Buddy D. Loeb

Culture of China, November 29, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

This book was truly enlightening. Amy Kwei manages to seep culture into a very serious story. She also shows the reader the degree of dignity and grace within a Chinese family. The book showed me that I am never too old to learn and I am certainly awaiting her next book which would bring us unto the late 1940's.


China During the War Years: Tragedy, Heroism, and Family, November 10, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

As a Chinese-American, I had heard from family members about the plight of China in the time before and during World War II. Their stories were sometimes tragic and sometimes heroic but always engrossing. A Concubine for the Family takes these stories to another level with a colorful cast of characters and vivid language that is authentic to the words and phrases used by the Chinese people. Amy Kwei draws the reader in with her adroit telling of the hardships of internecine conflict coupled with the magnificence of the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. That she does so by focusing on a specific family (and the concubine that becomes part of it) illustrates an attention to detail that the reader will appreciate and from which the reader will learn much about Chinese culture. I highly recommend this enjoyable read.

By Eva Arnott "Eva"

Chinese Culture from the Inside, November 10, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Kindle Edition)

At first the exotic names of the protagonists - Purple Jade, Glorious Dragon and their relatives - made them seem very distant from readers in the 21st century US. Then I was gradually caught up in the story of a decent honorable couple who were caught up in historical changes in the China of the mid-twentieth century which destroyed their stable world. I came to care about the family very much, mourned their losses and felt glad that the lives of some of their descendants have been easier than theirs.

By George Y Cha

A Jewel of Enjoyment!, November 1, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

This novel covers the period from 1937 to 1941: I was too young to experience myself but fortunately, I was able to live it through the memories of my late parents. It is a tapestry of traditional values, culture transition, politics and history. The author masterfully weaved all of the rich elements via a series of vignettes, a few are worthy of recapitulation.

     The underlying theme is the historical importance of the male offspring of any Chinese family; it was important then and remains to be so today. The matriarch of the Huang family was not able to produce a male heir, subsequently she offered her handmaiden to her husband with the hope to produce a male offspring. Alas destiny did not cooperate, 2 more daughters were the result! This importance of the male heir is ever important in China's single child policy of today, which have caused a major gender in-balance, infanticide, and forced late abortion.

     Historically, WWII for China and Japan was a much longer period of 8 years. Our author gave a vivid description of the Xian Incident, which was an attempt to bring the Nationalists and Communists together to confront the Japanese invaders. The Chinese people suffered greatly as a result of the Japanese invasion, and Japan never apologized for its atrocities and transgressions. Much of this animosity surfaced during the recent dispute over the islands in the South China Seas.

     Our author also gave a vivid picture of life in the foreign concessions in Shanghai during that period, there was a detailed description on the use of table utensils and good table manners while visiting a western restaurant.

     In summary, for anyone who have lived through, and have an interest in modern Chinese culture and history, obtain a copy of Amy S Kwei's "A Concubine for the Family", it is a jewel of enjoyment, and it'll stretch your insight of a people that'll play an increasingly important role in all of our lives!

By Doreen J. Grayson

An old society through new eyes, October 27, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

This book seems to be a work of love, not only during the twenty years the author said she had worked on it, but it would have begun all the way back to the author's childhood in China. That is obviously where her love for the traditions of her family and the people in that world took root, and it lights up her book. You can read history and biographies and know how the upper crust lived at that time. You may approve or not. But the author gives you a much more complete understanding of Chinese culture by taking you inside this "book fragrant" family, regaling you with their stories, their heartbreak and triumphs, and winning your heart in the process. It is a bit like getting to know old New York society through the eyes of Edith Wharton and Henry James. Those worlds are "gone" but still very much with us.

By Robert

Great story, October 10, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

This is a wonderful book. First of all it's a great story. Interesting things happen to interesting people in interesting times. The characters and family relationships are well developed, and the fascinating life events seem true to the time and place which is China in the the 1930's up to the fall of Hong Kong in1941. There is something of a history lesson as a by-product.  What makes the book truly special is the author's deep understanding of traditional Chinese cultural values contrasted to more modern western values and the tension between the two. No doubt her own life experience makes a contribution here.  I'm glad I read it and recommend it to others.

By Marty

A moving story; looking forward to the sequel, September 28, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

A moving story and a fast, satisfying read.  This is a poignant tale of a family struggling to survive and preserve traditional values amidst the horrors of the Japanese invastion of China before WW II.  Kwei does an excellent job of addressing the inner conflicts between long-standing Chinese traditional beliefs and encroaching Western culture and the attempt to synthesize the best of both worlds.  An insightful novel of family dynamics in a foreign culture under stress, and an honest look at the historical trauma of the Chinese people, which continues to shape the largest country in our word.  I look forward to the sequel.


Multi-generational Chinese Family 1937-41, September 20, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

Amazingly vivid descriptions of cultural transformation during a brief period of Chinese history.  A moving story of female caring and respect for family honor in pre-World War II China.  Lives of opulent splendor altered by political conflagration--the intimate personal nature of a family enveloped by external world events.

By Francine Rosen

A view into a culture, September 4, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

With the book "A Concubine for the Family", Amy Kwei gives us a fuller understanding of the depth and grace of the Chinese culture. She enables us to view life from a different perspective, one built on many centuries of philosophy and practice, and teaches us to realize how all cultures can benefit by learning about one another and espousing the best features of each.  Traditions foreign and perhaps offensive to our ways of thinking become understandable if not acceptable as we come to appreciate the thought and reasoning behind them.  This is a meticulously researched work written with an open heart and an open mind covering five years of tremendous upheaval and change in the lives of a remarkable people and their nation.

Sue Tatem (Stone Harbor, NJ)

A Lush Book About China, August 26, 2012

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

You will learn a lot about Chinese culture in this wonderful novel about China 1937 to 1941. Ms. Kwei was born in Shanghai, lived in Hong Kong, and has been in the US for many years. The photo on the back cover shows some family ancestors wearing clothes of that time -- the grandmother is seated and has bound feet, her maid is standing. The book has helpful aids -- a character family tree, a chapter of historical background, and a Glossary of Terms. You will be fascinated by the descriptions of an opium den and the raising of silk caterpillars as pets and the consequences of binding women's feet. You will be excited as the family flees for their lives from the ravages of war. You will be touched by the heartbreaking selfless act where the wife gives a concubine to her husband as a present in order to provide an heir for the family.

By megd

Thoroughly enjoyed this book, March 22, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

I thoroughly enjoyed A Concubine for the Family by Amy Kwei and felt I learned a lot about a period in Chinese history that I know so little about. I felt sad at the end of the book because the family had had to cope with so much dramatic change--moving so many times; having to adjust to a new life first in Shanghai, then Hong Kong; loss of loved ones; reconciling Western values with Chinese ones--even though life for the daughters and probably Purple Jade promised to be a brighter one. Something about the loss of your homeland, your roots, is sad, despite the power of the human to adjust and adapt.

By Rikiatthebeach

Truly Amazing, March 26, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Kindle Edition)

Ms. Kwei is a wonderful writer, with a rich sense of history.

This book gave me a new window into Chinese society, and the way families think.


By Les Weinstein

Interesting insights, May 6, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

I had the pleasure of reading Amy Kwei's "A Concubine for the Family" earlier this year and was struck by the insights it gave me into the lives and feelings of a segment of Chinese society from a time not so long ago. While it may strike a special chord with people of Chinese descent, it is by no means strictly a book for Chinese audiences. Hopefully it will reach a wider readership. In the course I teach to first year medical students we place a special emphasis on cross-cultural understanding. Fiction is often a more apt route to this knowledge than more academic tomes. I look forward to reading Amy Kwei's future work.

Karen Weinstein, PHD

By Susan Cottle, marketing coordinator for the Pitkin County Library, Aspen, Co.

June 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

This enjoyable and accessible read is such a treasure. Amy's descriptions of life in China and her very real characters bring a culture and a people alive.

    I was grateful to be given a (much needed!) history lesson that is the backbone for the novel, and I loved reading her carefully articulated details of everyday life - the colloquialisms, terms of endearment, and other vernacular, the descriptions of the opium dens, the binding of a young girl's feet, the medicines and techniques used for healings, the protocol of behavior between husband and wife, masters and servants, children and parents. I think Amy was especially skilled in presenting the confusion and ensuing judgment that occurs when two cultures collide. Without taking sides, she lets both her foreign and Chinese characters grapple with where they fall on the continuum between civilized and barbaric."  

By Wellington D.K. Chan, Ph.D., NEH Distinguished Professor of Humanities Emeritus, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA

July, 2013

This review is from: A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China (Paperback)

I was much impressed by Amy's careful attention to the historical background for the events that happened during that period in her novel. She also did good research that provided her with accurate factual information such as foot binding and how bound feet had to be managed and taken care of.  They lend verisimilitude, which to me is all the more important since the audience comes from individuals who are mostly unfamiliar with Chinese cultural values. 

     Novels dealing with traditional Chinese values tend to display a maudlin concern when describing family relationships. Amy successfully avoids this pitfall, for the old traditions were often set against the westernized influences brought in by their daughters from the missionary school and from the family's forced move to Shanghai. It is a good story, which I enjoyed reading. I shall pass it on to my former colleague who teaches Chinese language and on Chinese novels in English translation at Occidental College.