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.
Beautiful, charismatic, destructive, May escapes an ar-ranged
marriage in rural nineteenth-century China for life in a Shanghai
brothel, where she meets Arthur, an Australian whose philanthropic
pursuits lead him into one scrape after another. As a member of the
Foot Emancipation Society, Arthur calls on May not for his pleasure
but for her rehabilitation, only to find himself immediately and
helplessly seduced by the sight of her bound feet. Reforming May is
out of the question, so love-struck Arthur marries her instead and
brings her home to live with him, his sister and brother-in-law,
and their two girls, Alice and Cecily. In Alice, May sees the
possibility of redemption: a surrogate for a child she has lost.
And it is to May that Alice turns for the love her own mother
withholds. But when the twelve-year-old is caught preparing her
aunt's opium pipe, she is shipped off to a London boarding school,
far from the dangerous influence of the woman who will come to
reclaim her and to control the whole family.
The Binding Chair unfolds among scenes of astonishing beauty and
cruelty, in a lawless place where traditions and cultures clash,
and where tragedy threatens a world built on the banks of unsettled
waters--from the bustling Whangpoo River to the lake of blood in
the Chinese afterworld. By turns shocking, exquisite, and
hilarious, The Binding Chair is another spellbinding literary
triumph by the writer whose work Michiko Kakutani of "The New York
Times" has called "powerful and hypnotic."
"From the Hardcover edition."
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