Monday, November 02, 2009

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

This Cinderella story, based on Chinese tales, with some Grimm tossed in, takes place in China during the Ming period. I felt the story was fast-paced and gave the reader an intriguing insight into the culture and life of the Chinese (especially the women) during this period. I think it would be a great book for Global I students. I have read that Napoli does an excellent job researching time periods for her historical fiction books...I believe this book accurately depicts the period, but perhaps a global teacher could comment?

Having said that, I felt there were places where Napoli leaves us hanging and I don't think she does a good job of weaving all her threads together at the end of the book. And parts seem somewhat trite- like the relationship between Xing Xing and her sister. At first her sister despises Xing Xing and then they end up friends??? Maybe I was expecting it to follow the traditional Cinderella pattern! I did however, like the themes and symbolism of the book. The themes of love, freedom, human rights, captivity, etc...are multi layered, and the symbolism of being bound is powerful. Although Xing Xing's feet aren't bound as her sisters are, she is still bound to a life of servitude. I thought all of these aspects would lend to this being a great book for discussion.

I was also intrigued with the ending- how Xing Xing tells the prince that she doesn't want to be bought or sold, that she can read and write, that her feet are not bound, and she has no dowry. Not too bad for a girl who is "hardly more than a slave."

Overall, I thought the strongest part of this book was the cultural insight the reader gains about this period of Chinese history. Looking forward to reading your comments!