Pavilion of Women

Tremendous book which I gobbled down greedily. On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu gets a concubine for her husband and frees herself from having to sleep with him, moving into new rooms in the estate, paying attention to her own needs, reading books all day and continuing to manage the household affairs. Slowly and carefully, she begins to know herself, especially after the tutelage of her third son exposes her to dialog with his teacher, Andre. Brother Andre is a giant foreigner, hairy, wise beyond words. After her son leaves, Madame Wu continues to employ Andre, as a tutor for her son’s wife, with most of the teaching going above Rulan’s head. The concubine is troubled, attempts to hang herself, has an early delivery of a daughter. Master Wu falls in love with a flower girl whom Madame Wu folds into the household. Andre is attacked by a gang of hooligans, and later dies after sending for Madame Wu and telling her to continue his work. She scoops up the dozens of children he’s been sheltering, and adds them to her household, housing them in an unused temple in a court of the estate. Her wisdom grows after Andre’s death, she lives for everyone instead of just herself. The pacing was a steady stream, then a hurricane of activity leading up to Andre’s death, and then slowly winds back down to a more calming pace. Andre lives on in Madame Wu and her son’s thoughts and actions.