The Binding Chair by Kathryn HarrisonRate this book. Buy This Book. May escapes an arranged marriage in rural nineteenth-century China for life in a Shanghai brothel. By turns shocking, exquisite, and hilarious. In poised and elegant prose, Kathryn Harrison weaves in The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society a stunning story of women, travel, and flight; of love, revenge, and fear; of the search for home and the need to escape it. Set in alluring Shanghai at the turn of the century, The Binding Chair intertwines the destinies of a Chinese woman determined to forget her past and a Western girl focused on the promises of the future.
A best seller, it provoked widespread debate about the role of the public confessional in our scandal-hungry society. Yet in the course of these discussions, the literary merits of Harrison's enterprise were rarely at issue; the book's content, which catapulted her name to prominence, was -- at least to this reader -- a distraction from Harrison's considerable writerly gifts. The revelation of sensational facts seems all too easy when compared with the challenge of creating subtle fictions. Prior to ''The Kiss,'' Harrison wrote three powerful and ambitious novels that amply demonstrate both her meticulous style and her imaginative range. In them she roamed with equal ease from the grit of contemporary New York to the machinations of the 17th-century Spanish court. It is, then, a pleasure to see her return to her fictional calling. It is also a heartening sign of literary risk-taking.
Thank you! Harrison is a powerful, hypnotic writer fascinated by the psychosexual elements of a secretive human life.
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Harrison's novel does not flinch from the brutality of the foot-binding system, but recognizes the complexity of the emotions stirred by it. Were an admirer to consult Fan Hsun's Classifications of the Qualities of Fragrant Lotuses , he would find May's feet plump, soft, and fine in the classic style of the Harmonious Bow. They were perfect with regard to all nine criteria of excellence, and she cared for them with the respect due objects purchased at great price.
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