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Bronze Mirror Hardcover – July, 1991

3 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having established her reputation, in Silk Road , as a writer who provocatively fuses the myths and history of medieval China, Larsen again spins an imaginative story that takes place both in the heavenly spheres and in the real world. The narrative is framed as a story-telling competition, in which three intersecting tales are related in alternating segments by gods who live in "the time before time begins." The Silkweb Empress recounts her tale by painting a picture on silk; the Emperor's chief minister, Tsang-jieh, uses writing, which he has just invented; and a goddess-in-waiting, Lady Quillingwheel, combines both methods. They chronicle the adventures of Pomegranate, a 12th-century shopkeeper's daughter serving as a lady's maid in a rich family fallen upon hard times, a device that allows Larsen to portray the complexities of Chinese society. She also endows the gods with the same passions and rivalries, fallibilities and foibles as the humans whose lives they manipulate. Though clever, whimsically humorous and insightful, the narrative lacks full-bodied vigor and dramatic intensity. Larsen's authorial intrusions, while always interesting, are sometimes too discursive and obtrusive, diluting the tension and slowing the pace. On the other hand, her ability to synthesize the magical and historical continues to charm. BOMC featured alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Another Chinese tale within a tale, this second novel from the author of Silk Road ( LJ 5/1/89) again involves deities actively manipulating human lives. The 12th-century southern Soong years, wracked by war and sudden change and an ill-fated noble house, are the subject of a storytelling contest between the Silkweb Empress and a favored courtier of the Yellow Emperor. Weaving a complex tapestry of themes, Larsen includes mythology, personal rivalries between goddesses, and Chinese history and culture as seen through the eyes of Pomegranate, a young maid to the lonely Lady Phoenix, the young arranged wife of an absent first son. Love, lust, greed, revenge, and Buddhist tranquility appear as the Lady Phoenix seeks inner peace in a household rent by a vituperative mother-in-law and a lascivious second son whose philanderings bring a curse to the family when his banished, impregnated maid commits suicide. A complex tale for larger fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/91; BOMC featured alternate.
- Joan Hinkemeyer, Englewood P.L., Col.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (July 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805011102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805011104
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,554,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeanne Larsen fell in love with Chinese poetry when she was in high school. After earning her M.A. in creative writing from what was then Hollins College, she spent two years teaching at Tunghai University in Taiwan. That not only locked in her love for Tang dynasty poets and the world they lived in, it convinced her that, right Mom, she'd better go get a Ph.D. A few years of Comparative Literature later (Iowa City, USA, & Nagasaki, Japan, mostly), Jeanne started teaching at Hollins, between Virginia's Blue Ridge and the Allegheny highlands, in the Roanoke valley: one of the best spots on the planet, so she says.

Jeanne's latest book is WHY WE MAKE GARDENS (& OTHER POEMS). She has also published the AWP Award winning (JAMES COOK IN SEARCH OF TERRA INCOGNITA: A BOOK OF POEMS), two collections of translated poems by women of the Tang era (BROCADE RIVER POEMS and WILLOW, WINE, MIRROR, MOON), a little lit crit, and the three novels in her "Avalokiteshvara trilogy", SILK ROAD, BRONZE MIRROR, and MANCHU PALACES. Essays, poetry, translations, and occasionally a short story all show up in literary magazines (some print, some digital), now and then. More books in the works, of course. Right now, she's mainly happy for the Authors Guild "back in print" program, which has made the novels easily available again: same inside, maps and all, with snappy new covers to boot.

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Format: Paperback
Jeanne Larsen's Bronze Mirror is the story of Pomegranate, new maid to the Su household, brought (and bought) from her family to minister to Lady Phoenix, new wife to the head of the household. Bronze Mirror is also the story of a competition between members of the godhead -- a competition caused by a tiff between The Yellow Emperor and his wife, the Silkweb Empress. There's also the bodhisattva, who warns of the karmic debt created by the story-tellers. There's Reedflute and his master/lover Inkstone, the young goddess- in-waiting Spinner, and the double-pupiled inventor of the Chinese written language Tsang-jieh. Then there's the river dragon, the lord of the hill, the ten lords of hell, the wrong Redgold, the womanizing Second Master, the Horsehead Woman...hey, a larger cast of characters and plots within plots is rarely seen outside of daytime television!
In my drive to become an expert on little-known American literature based on Chinese myth, legend and history (specialization is the key, as they told us in college), this is the third book that I've recently read in the field. (The other recent additions that I read were Mark Salzman's The Laughing Sutra and Barry Hughart's Eight Skilled Gentlemen.) Talk about three dissimilar books! Hughart's novels are fantasy/mystery, proudly published as genre books -- why, Bridge of Birds even won a genre award. The Laughing Sutra was on semi-proud display at The Strand (New York's largest used bookstore) in the "Reviewer's Copies" section, that purgatory created for books sufficiently unknown to the columnists for New York's fashionable review mags, a judgment roundly carried out across the nation.
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