By Megan Harlan
Updated June 02, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Binding Chair or, A Visit From the Foot Emancipation Society

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  • Book
genre

Kathryn Harrison, best known for The Kiss — the 1997 memoir about her consensual affair with her father — here delivers a shrewd, gritty, gorgeously written novel about Chinese foot binding. Scarred by this bone-breaking ritual in the 1880s, May, the Chinese protagonist, escapes a brutal arranged marriage, becomes a Shanghai courtesan, then weds a wealthy Jewish expat while stifling guilt about a secret crime. Luxuriantly set in locales like Shanghai and Siberia, Harrison’s elegant nonlinear narrative resembles a Chinese puzzle, intricately interlinking May’s fate with that of her rebellious Western niece, Alice. By its dark, revelatory finale, The Binding Chair or, a Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society has laid bare the psychology of repression. B+

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The Binding Chair or, A Visit From the Foot Emancipation Society

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  • Book
genre
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