Book Reviews of The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society

The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society
The Binding Chair or A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society
Author: Kathryn Harrison
ISBN-13: 9780060934422
ISBN-10: 0060934425
Publication Date: 7/1/2001
Pages: 336
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 49

3.7 stars, based on 49 ratings
Publisher: Perennial
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

12 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on
Helpful Score: 6
Kathryn Harrison has a gift for creating exceptionally beautiful prose. After reading her memoir, The Kiss, I was compelled to look in to her fiction, though I don't normally like works of fiction. This was a most bizarre book! I wanted to like it - I really did. But I am left feeling somewhat unsettled and a bit disappointed, despite the glorious writing.

The association and relationship between May and Alice is handled beautifully. I loved May as a character, but felt there were far too many periphery characters which really didn't add to the story (Eleanor, and Suzanne, for example). I would have like to have seen the lives of other Chinese nationals explored a bit more (Brother and the other Brother, and possibly May's Grandmother, for example.)

I despise gratuitous sex, and Alice's encounters were just that - gratuitous. The only sex scene that I felt was germane to the story was May's encounters with her first husband. The scene describing May and Suzanne and Suzanne's virginity was simply absurd. Why the author thought it added something to the story, I will never know.

I won't reveal the ending, but suffice it to say, it left me cold. What a cheap way to end what could have been a glorious book. :p

I will try another of her works, simply because I love the way she writes. However, I cannot recommend this book, as it is written. It held so much promise and simply fell flat.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 64 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
I can see why this book is on so many wish lists instead of being readily avaiable. I'm going to keep my copy for awhile and recommend it to my book club. Supurb writing and character development, a fascinating, intimate story of an intermarriage family in China in the early 20th century.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on
Helpful Score: 3
Absolutely excellent book- first I've read by this author. Slow moving story draws you in and you don't realize how bizarre it is till you're already commited to the characters...
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on
Helpful Score: 2
Kathryn Harrison has a gift for creating exceptionally beautiful prose. After reading her memoir, The Kiss, I was compelled to look in to her fiction, though I don't normally like works of fiction. This was a most bizarre book! I wanted to like it - I really did. But I am left feeling somewhat unsettled and a bit disappointed, despite the glorious writing.

The association and relationship between May and Alice is handled beautifully. I loved May as a character, but felt there were far too many periphery characters which really didn't add to the story (Eleanor, and Suzanne, for example). I would have like to have seen the lives of other Chinese nationals explored a bit more (Brother and the other Brother, and possibly May's Grandmother, for example.)

I despise gratuitous sex, and Alice's encounters were just that - gratuitous. The only sex scene that I felt was germane to the story was May's encounters with her first husband. The scene describing May and Suzanne and Suzanne's virginity was simply absurd. Why the author thought it added something to the story, I will never know.

I won't reveal the ending, but suffice it to say, it left me cold. What a cheap way to end what could have been a glorious book. :p

I will try another of her works, simply because I love the way she writes. However, I cannot recommend this book, as it is written. It held so much promise and simply fell flat.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book was not as good as I thought it would be. It was an ok story, but I found it to be at times difficult to follow. I just did not think it was very engaging, and it was at times somewhat twisted and depressing. I normally don't mind a little of that, but it didn't have enough of a great story to redeem the sad feeling I got from reading it.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on
Helpful Score: 2
I thought the subject would be interesting but the plot just plods along, and I don't really care about any of the characters.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 1250 more book reviews
This was engaging from the first page. An amazing life journey of a foot bound women who from the very first wrapping has hated the life her feet gave her. She becomes her own person and struggles to live with what she has done and become. A very interesting and moving book.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 4 more book reviews
Excellent book about with a wonderful cast of characters.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 28 more book reviews
Kathryn Harrison is a great writer, though this is a departure from her more contemporary stuff. This was very interesting.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 643 more book reviews
Amazon.com Review
One of the women in Kathryn Harrison's The Binding Chair has a mind "which had always suffered from morbid imaginings." Harrison could be telling a gentle joke on herself here, for she has stuffed her novel with such imaginings. Here are broken fingers, abortions, Marathon Man-style dentistry, sodomy (not in a good way), and even an abused chicken. One particular morbidity, though, is the spur of the tale.
May, a young Chinese woman, suffers the brutal ritual of foot binding at the turn of the last century. The book follows May from a bad marriage (think Raise the Red Lantern) to Shanghai, "the infamous city of danger and opportunity." May--either despite or because of her foot's deformity--is considered a woman of astonishing beauty. "Each part of May, her cuticles and wristbones and earlobes, the blue-white luminous hollow between her clavicles, inspired the same conclusion: that to assemble her had required more than the usual workaday genius of biology." Her beauty, her fetishistically bound feet, and her quick mastery of a handful of languages earn her a pile of money and finally a Western husband.

May develops a close relationship with her husband's Jewish family, especially with her unruly niece Alice. Harrison's scrupulously researched novel follows the two of them from Shanghai to London and back again, encountering along the way a colorful cast of women who've all suffered a disfigurement, mental or physical, that echoes May's. Finally several of the women come together in Nice, where each works out her destiny. The Binding Chair is far-flung, geographically and emotionally, and never quite coalesces, but perhaps the author was intentionally seeking to make a story about the Chinese and the Jews that has a feeling of diaspora. You've got to hand it to Harrison. Most writers, upon developing a fascination with Shanghai, would write a nice article for Travel & Leisure and have done with it. Kathryn Harrison has forged an ambitious novel.


Publisher:
As she demonstrated in Poison, Harrison renders historical settings with textured fidelity. Here she spins an exotic and irresistible tale set mainly in Shanghai at the turn of the last century, with evocative side trips through Russia, England and the French Riviera. The changing culture of China is reflected in the life of a compelling character. Born in 1884, May must submit to foot binding as a child, and thereafter endures constant pain and the constriction of her freedom. Despite her deformed feet, at 14 she escapes a sadistic husband and pursues a new life in a brothel in Shanghai, where she eventually marries a kindhearted Jewish immigrant from Australia who's a member of the Foot Emancipation Society. May's stubborn, indomitable spirit isn't hampered by her husband's inability to find a job, since they live in the opulent household of his sister and her husband, and their two daughters--the younger of whom comes under May's thrall. Manipulative and autocratic, May spends her life despising her useless feet, fighting convention and adoring her high-spirited niece. But she cannot escape the ancient legends and superstitions that shadow her life, or the opium habit she develops after several emotional blows. Lost children are one theme here, and the varied ways people deal with such loss. Another is the lot of women striving to be independent in a hostile world. Harrison describes in harrowing detail the barbaric foot-binding ritual, various forms of sexual brutality, parental abuse and official torture. She is equally deft at social comedy, erotic titillation and tender sentiment. 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. 12-city author tour.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 526 more book reviews
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.

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 ofunsettled 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.
reviewed The Binding Chair : or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society on + 8 more book reviews
In poised and elegant prose, Kathryn Harrison weaves 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.