Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Red Chamber

A novel I picked up in the library shortly before Valentine's day.
They had decorated a small section in which they had stalled books with red covers.
The one you see below (I read this one in Dutch)

I thought that was adorable and ended up choosing two random books to try.
This was the first that I read, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The Red Chamber is a novel about a wealthy Chinese family living in Bejing during the 18th century. It centers specifically around the women of that family, and their fate.
Women in that day and age didn't have many choices in life, which was to be expected. But as I read in that novel is that many women are crafty enough to find ways to enrich their lives with what life has to offer.
The three women centered in this story are Xifeng, Daiyu and Baochai.
I listed them in order of my personal preference.

Xifeng is the oldest of them, the one with the most experience, who tries to warn the younger women to not needlessly do what they are told but to seek some personal gain or pleasure. She doesn't do this openly, as that is not the present decorum for a Chinese woman. Her intentions are even misunderstood, until it's too late.

Daiyu, a recent guest of this family, is a dreamer. She grew up in a household where women weren't told to behave a certain way, which causes her to feel suffocated with her estranged family. She's torn between the contempt of her grandmother and the love and desire she shares with Baoyu, her nephew. Their paths have been decided on but in their stubborn way, they try to find a way out of their shackles, never minding the consequences.

Baochai, the white canvas of the three girls. I, as reader, had more insight in her feelings than any of the other women as she keeps her feelings to herself. She is seen as remote, unfeeling and reserved. Her fear of showing emotion, turns her away from Daiyu or Xifeng when both women need her the most, which ultimately led her to a lonely path.

The novel is well constructed, with chapters that vary between these three characters, plus a few insights in the male household, as we see a few pages through Baoyu and his father, Jia Zheng's eyes. It adds a bit of depth that makes this novel even more profound.

I found this to be a very well written piece of prose, and am intrigued by the famous Chinese Novel this book is founded upon.

It's probably a bit too daunting for me to read this one, but I found The Red Chamber a perfect appetizer. It definitely gave me a taste for more, so who knows.. I might be tempted.