Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading Midnight in Peking by Paul French. It was non-fiction and great, but what really stuck with me was the whole cosmopolitan-ness of Peking and other cities in China in the 30’s. There was this intriguing sometimes blend and other times, complete separateness of Chinese and European culture. It left me wanting to explore more.
Enter TLC Book Tours and Skeleton Women. Here is a bit of the blub that made me say YES!
Once upon a time in China, the most beautiful and gifted women were known as “skeleton women”—the ultimate femme fatales who could bring a man to his knees, or to his doom…
When Camilla, a young orphan girl in Shanghai, is adopted and brought to live in luxury, it seems like a stroke of luck. But as Camilla grows to womanhood, she realizes that her “rescue” was part of gang leader Big Brother Wang’s scheme. Camilla is trained in singing, dancing, knife-throwing and contortion—all to attract the attention of Wang’s enemy, the ruthless Master Lung.
Skeleton Women is a fictional look at that darker side of China in the 1930’s that filled my head with wonder in Midnight in Peking, that separate side and it was a compelling introduction to the author, Mingmei Yip.
China, in general, baffles me and I have always struggled with reading any fiction set there, even the so-called greats like The Good Earth. The problem isn’t the historical setting in time, so much as my inability to understand the culture and therefore what makes the characters tick.
Skeleton Women’s main character, Camilla, is different though. While still steeped in the period and traditions on China, Yip has written about her in a way that highlights the struggles from a viewpoint that we all share, the slant of what I guess I would call the fundamental questions being human. What am I here for? Do I have to do what the people that raised me told me to do? What do I owe them? And perhaps most importantly, am I “good enough” to deserve another’s love?
Camilla feels trapped in her situation, She was saved from the orphanage, groomed not to have everyday emotions, and trained to become a spy that would catch a rival gangs leader’s eye in the hope of finding his stash and killing him. Not only does she have to deal with other skeleton women trying to do, what she assumes, the same thing, but she must deal with emotions that she was taught not to feel and desiring things that she never thought to want.
While I am sure that most of us can’t relate to being raised as a sexy spy bent on destroying a rival gang leader, we can relate to grappling new emotions and having qualms about choosing our own path as opposed to what others want us to do.
I really enjoyed this book on many levels, obviously. While I can’t speak to it’s historical accuracy, I can say that it sucked me into caring about something and someone that I would have bet you I couldn’t before. Yip’s writing was the perfect follow-up to Midnight in Peking and where other books that I have read set in China make me see nothing but how different we are, highlighted how alike we all are and just have different ways of finding our answers to those fundamental questions.
Skeleton Women by MingMei Yip
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Kensington (May 29, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0758273533
- ISBN-13: 978-0758273536
Author’s Website: http://www.mingmeiyip.com/
Thanks goes to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read this book.