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 arranged 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."
Wall Street Journal - Gadi Taub
After three successful novels and a controversial memoir of her sexual relationship with her father...1997's The Kiss....Kathryn Harrison steps outside the realm of ultimate transgressions and total devastation with this deeply humane novel.
New York Times Book Review - Claire Mussud
A resonant, elaborately constructed novel, rich in incident, bustlingly peopled, often surprisingly funny.
New York Observer
Kathryn Harrison’s previous novels have already established her as an exceptionally, almost ridiculously gifted writer, whose cool, well-crafted sentences conceal their emotional message until some small detail–a sigh, a ripple of water–tips the author’s hand. In The Binding Chair, she has managed to resurrect the illicit–a remarkable achievement in the Age of Consent–and to mark again her thundering talent and her twisted sensibilities.
This is her best work to date, an intricately and elegantly constructed narrative about intersections of character and fate, history and chance, and the ironic, tragic fulfillment of hearts' desires.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Louise Jolly Big Disappointment After having read Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, I was familiar with the age old torture of foot binding performed on young girls in early China. A year long process that I couldn’t imagine having had to endure. Poor May had to endure... Read More
Rated of 5
Brilliant, and add on to 'memories of a geisha'.
Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence. Ultimately, Lisa Sees new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.
These are 2 of the 4 readalike suggestions for The Binding Chair. Members have full access to all readalikes. If you are a member, please login. To find out more about membership, click here.
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...