Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: Women of the Silk (Tsukiyama)

Title: Women of the Silk
Author: Gail Tsukiyama
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 278
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I was given this book as a gift by a family member last Christmas (yes, it's taken me 6 months to get to it!)
Summary (from the back of the book): In Women of the Silk, Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reelign machines that reverberate and calmor in a vast silk factory from daun until dusk. Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, adn friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on the own. Tsukiyama's graceful prose weaves the details of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of miraculous courage and strength.

Review: Years ago I read Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden and absolutely loved it so have wanted to read more so put this one on my Christmas list last year. My brother and sister-in-law obliged and now I've finally gotten around to reading it. And, I am glad I did!

This book is so beautifully written! Her mixture of description, dialogue and history blend together so seemlessly. I am not someone who likes flowery prose so this book certainly isn't that, but every word is important and brings meaning to the storyline.

I haven't read a ton about China so this was very interesting. It spans from 1912 when Pei, the main character, is 9 and sent off to work in the silk factory to 1938 when she is an adult and has chosen to live a life of the silk, promising never to marry. The friendships among the women in the factory (who live together in girls' houses) are nice and supportive, with an older woman in charge of their well-being in the home. Having recently read 2 books on child prostitution it was nice to read a book where girls who work in factories have more freedom in their personal lives. They had plenty of food, caring friends and care takers, and, though their hours were long, they saved money for their futures.

I learned a lot about Chinese culture, history, and life through this book, something that I really appreciate. The story even includes the rise of Chiang Kai-Shek, the communists (though Mao is never mentioned by name), and the invasion by Japan, including the rape of Nanking.

4 comments:

Aths said...

I haven't heard of this book, but it sounds like a must-read! I have to look this one up. Thanks for the review!

gnoegnoe said...

Thanks for refreshing my memory! Like you I read The Samurai's Garden first and The Women of the Silk after that. Loved them both too! If I remember correctly I was intrigued by the fact that they both end at the same time (and do 'certain people' travel to the same place as well? -- trying to be vague because of spoilers ;)

mel u said...

I read her Street of 1000 Blossoms last year-I liked it a lot-I enjoy historical novels set in Asia -

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--I hope you enjoy the book!

Gnoegnoe--Oooh, hadn't thought about the endings of the 2 books since I read them so far apart. Interesting thought!

Mel--I haven't even heard of 1000 Blossoms; I'll have to check it out