I'm not familiar with the Chinese work "Dream of the Read Chamber" but I found "The Red Chamber" to be an intriguing and fascinating read on it's own merits. Pauline Chen's take on Chinese life as seen through the women of one family has the reader feeling invested and interested in each petty intrigue and upheaval faced by the various family members. The lush descriptions and fascinating characters made for an outstanding read.
The Jia family is shown through the eyes of Daiyu as she travels to meet her mother's family, after years of separation. Xifeng is the woman who keeps the household running, Baochai is the prim and emotional repressed cousin meant to be betrothed to the eldest son, Lady Jia the bitter matriarch, and various maids and servants. Intrigues of the heart end up threatening to take the whole family down, with each of these women facing their futures with completely different outlooks and results.
In this lyrical reimagining of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber, set against the breathtaking backdrop of eighteenth-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 façades, 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.