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Extended Audio Sample The Red Chamber, by Pauline A. Chen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (446 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Pauline A. Chen Narrator: Grayce Wey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In this lyrical reimagining of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber set against the breathtaking backdrop of eighteeth-century Beijing, the lives of three unforgettable women collide in the inner chambers of the Jia mansion. When orphaned Daiyu leaves her home in the provinces to take shelter with her cousins in the capital, she is drawn into a world of opulent splendor, presided over by the ruthless, scheming Xifeng and the prim, repressed Baochai. As she learns the secrets behind their glittering facades, she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue and hidden passions, reaching from the petty gossip of the servants’ quarters all the way to the Imperial Palace. When a political coup overthrows the emperor and plunges the once-mighty family into grinding poverty, each woman must choose between love and duty, friendship and survival.

In this dazzling debut, Pauline A. Chen draws the reader deep into the secret, exquisite world of the women’s quarters of an aristocratic household, where the burnish of wealth and refinement mask a harsher truth: marriageable girls are traded like chattel for the family’s advancement, and to choose to love is to risk everything.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Rarely does a cast of beloved literary figures from another culture and time come alive on the pages of a modern writer’s work. Pauline Chen has reimagined the characters from my very favorite novel to make a compelling new version of China’s great literary masterpiece.”

    Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

  • “Dazzles on every page. Heartbreaking, exhilarating, and impossible to put down.”

    Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic

  • “Bold and memorable…Chen retells and recreates in lush detail the daily life inside the Rongguo Mansion, where scandalous secrets and lies are hidden behind a grand façade.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Elegant…takes a long hard look at the complex interconnected desires, ambitions, and conventions that can bind a family together—or tear it apart.”

    The Daily Beast

  • “All the reversals and treachery of a telenovela…moving, startling, and quite beautiful.”

    The Plain Dealer

  • “Chen’s framework provides a context for her characters’ actions, as often flawed as they are heroic, that makes things not just knowable but comprehensible.”

    Denver Post

  • “Chen raises the bar extraordinarily high in this reimagining of one of the most famous Chinese books ever written…This is a well-crafted novel full of skill and grace from an author to watch out for.”

    Sunday Business Post (Dublin)

  • “Gripping…These are complex storylines and well-loved literary characters, but Chen handles their emotions artfully and with compassion…Chen has successfully unravelled and rethreaded Cao’s masterpiece for a new audience.”

    Sunday Morning Post (Hong Kong)

  • “Full of lavish details of the palace, sumptuous feasts, and day-to-day minutiae, levitating whispered conversations overheard by the wrong parties, capricious scheming between family members, and gossip hidden beneath every elegant tapestry and beaded pillow to lofted heights.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Fans of historical fiction who appreciate resonant details, unexpected intrigue, and multigenerational plotting will find this work irresistible.”

    Library Journal

  • “From the mighty heights to the depths of poverty and despair, the significance of female relationships, friendships, and rivalries are at the forefront of this compelling glimpse into an exotic time and place.”


  • “The writing is supple and Chen often touches notes of emotional depth.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Corrie.paeglow | 2/20/2014

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if I wouldn't call it a work of great literature. It's rather predictable but I think this is likely because it adheres to the source material - a classical Chinese work - pretty closely. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lisa | 2/11/2014

    " Good choice for our book club. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Megan | 2/10/2014

    " This book was very intense, especially in the last half as all the action gets going. The first half was a little slow, but it was good to get acquainted with all the characters. I can see myself reading this again. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lisa | 2/2/2014

    " Interesting story and interplay between the women of an 18th century Beijing household who are all trapped in their own ways and must do the best they can to survive. The author worked from the original Chinese source and as a result the book has more flavor of a translation than something from the hands of an experienced novelist. All the same, I did enjoy the read. "

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About the Author

Pauline A. Chen earned her BA in classics from Harvard University, her JD from Yale Law School, and her PhD in East Asian Studies from Princeton. She has taught Chinese language, literature, and film at the University of Minnesota and Oberlin College. She is also the author of the children’s novel Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas.