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Threads of Silk

Narrated by: Leanne Yau
Length: 10 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Summary

Born in the middle of nowhere, Yaqian, a little embroidery girl from Hunan Province, finds her way to the imperial court, a place of intrigue, desire, and treachery. From the bed of an Emperor, the heart of a Prince, and the right side of an Empress, Yaqian weaves her way through the most turbulent decades of China's history and witnesses the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

©2016 Amanda Roberts (P)2017 Red Empress Publishing

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Humility and Power in the forbidden city

Gorgeous story of a young woman whose life is changed when she is invited to live in the imperial court. Her humility never leaves her and this is amazingly voice acted.
It tells a story of power, not just from masculine lines, but through hard work, connectedness and diligence. The inner strength and courage that are portrayed, leave a resonance even after finishing listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Helen
  • Paignton
  • 09-08-19

great story

It is beautifully written must have done so much research to bring to life the times of the Chinese court of the time.
enjoyed it very much

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Good read

Not super compelling, a light weight tale, read in a weird English accent, with very weird regional vowel sounds.
Entertaining and nicely historical and rich.

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  • DubaiReader
  • Holsworthy, Devon, United Kingdom
  • 08-08-18

As the Qing Dynasty draws to a close...

I thoroughly enjoyed the audio version of this book - when faced with unpronounceable names in a foreign language, the audio is often the best solution and Leanne Yau had a convincing Chinese accent.

The main character is Yaqian, just a child when she is removed from her rural home province and sent to an embroidery school. As a young girl she had enjoyed working in the fields, where she had loved caring for the silk worms, but when the time came for her feet to be bound, she had to stay indoors and learned embroidery instead. She worked on her first pair of dainty shoes, intending to wear them herself, but they were so beautiful that they were taken from her and sold.

Her skills became recognised and she gained a place at a prestigious embroidery school, where the sales of her work were to pay for her education. The daily rigours of the school are covered in quite extensive detail, including music and traditional dance.
Yaqian is always striving to improve and when she develops a technique that allows both sides of the embroidery to be perfect, she starts to excel beyond the skills of her master.

A piece of her work is sent as a gift to the Emperor's favourite concubine and suddenly she finds herself whisked away to the capital and to a new life in the Forbidden City.
Through Yaqian we partake in events from the late 1800s into the early twentieth century, as she becomes Imperial Concubine Yi's personal embroiderer. As Concubine Yi rises to become Empress Cixi, Yaqian stays loyal and eventually becomes a personal friend. The Qing Dynasty is drawing to a close and events become tense and worrying, yet Yaqian keeps her head and proves herself well beyond her skills as an embroiderer.
How cool is it that we can now visit this Forbidden City, where so much of China's history once played out?

The author has lived in China for the past eight years and speaks the language. She researched extensively for this novel and I found myself becoming very involved in the history of Chinese embroidery. There was also the inevitably uncomfortable section on the ancient practice of foot binding, so be warned.

An interesting novel to listen to, slow moving but never static. This would appeal to lovers of historical fiction and historical romance.

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  • Margaret
  • 14-09-17

Absolutely wonderful story !

What did you love best about Threads of Silk?

It is a lovely story that follows one main character from the age of six well into her senior years and also follows the historical events during that time period. The story peaked my interest in a place and time that I was unfamiliar with and I often found myself stopping the book to do a little side research to expand my knowledge. The main character was so well written and the story so nicely developed that it had me questioning whether this main character was a real person in history.

What other book might you compare Threads of Silk to and why?

Any book in Ken Follett's Pillars of Creation or Century trilogy. These books, as well as Threats of Silk, are wonderful stories intertwined amongst history to create a very realistic tale. The research that went into creating the characters and plot must've been astounding.

What does Leanne Yau bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Correct pronunciation of the places and people's in the story.

Another reviewer commented that Leanne Yau had an American accent, it is actually English. It was also mentioned that it was a disappointment that she spoke without a Chinese accent because the main character could not speak English. Personally, I do not have an issue with the fact that this book is narrated with an English accent because I speak English and I would not have understood the book if it was read to me in Chinese (which would be only way to stay true to a character that does not speak English).

Any additional comments?

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and voluntarily left this unbiased review

I would love to listen to another book by this author or narrator.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Nomi
  • 20-09-17

❤️

A really beautiful book. Wonderfully well written characters and story that I loved. I took my time listening just so I didn't miss anything. I really loved the whole feel of this book. Very enjoyable.

The narrator did an awesome job. Wonderful performance.

This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Christine Newton
  • 01-09-17

Fascinating story of mid-late 19th century China

Any additional comments?

This is the first historical fiction story that I've read which is set in mid- to late- 19th century China. Purists can sometimes be dismissive of historical fiction because of the creative license taken by authors when it comes to fact vs. fiction. I suppose I can understand their position, if readers end up with distorted or incorrect understanding of historical events. On the other hand, good historical fiction can spark an interest and curiosity that prompts readers to explore the topic in more depth on their own after the story ends - and that can be a wonderful rabbit hole to jump into...

And that's where I found myself after reading this book (during the book, too). A few times, I'd put the audiobook on pause so that I could do some more internet research about the actual people in the story - Parkes, Empress Dowager Cixi, Prince Gong, and more. I also did some browsing about foot binding, embroidery, the Boxer Rebellion, and Han vs Manchu Chinese. The tale of the heroine, an embroidery girl at Court, formed a narrative backbone that linked and launched all of my interesting research side trips. For sparking my curiosity and holding my interest throughout the book, I give this story full stars. The only reason why I deducted a star was because the protagonist had some flaws that made her less than admirable in my eyes. She's only human, of course, but I didn't really relate to her or engage emotionally with her. So I felt, as a reader, that I was outside looking in on her life and experiences. I could sympathize, but not empathize.

The narrator did a great job. As mentioned, this is my first foray into audio historical fiction from this place and time. So I was expecting an English speaking narrator with a Chinese accent. Instead, the narration was British-accented English. It picked at the back of my mind throughout the story - is this what an English speaking person in China would have sounded like, or is the accent British because that's the narrator's own voice? The protagonist in the story was an uneducated country-bred Chinese girl who couldn't speak English, so I couldn't really reconcile the narrator's tone with what I imagined to be an authentic voice of the protagonist. Regardless, the narrator spoke with a flowing tone and pace, and I enjoyed the sound of her voice. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish some of the speakers, but there were quite a few different female characters so I understand that it might be challenging to give each of them their own voice (I noticed this particularly when a female character was "freaking out" during a conversation). Aside from this, though, I'd certainly listen to this narrator again. I'm Canadian and I love hearing British accents!

Some other reviewers have commented about a few very graphic sex scenes in the story. There were only a few of them, and it's easy enough to fast forward to the end of those parts. If I were to change anything about the story, I would want an epilogue that extended the narrative for a little while longer, so we could learn what happened to our protagonist towards the end of her life. There were significant changes happening in China, after all. By the time we get to the final chapter, pretty much all of the main players in the story have exited from the stage and she has given her assets to her grandchild so she doesn't have much financial security. So, I'd have liked the author to have given us a little peek into her future.

Otherwise, I thought that this was a wonderful story and I'm not going to delete it from my audiobook library anytime soon.

"I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Nonny
  • 17-03-19

Enchanting story and narration

An enchanting story told from a fascinating perspective. Through Yaqian's (sp?) eyes, we hear details of daily life at the end of an era. I loved the details of time and place in this story--I won't list any examples here though (no spoilers!)

The narrator did a terrific job as well. I love the timbre of this narrator's voice. Her voice has a smooth cadence, not too fast, not too slow, and varied inflection that always keeps the story moving forward. She brings the different characters to life with different voices. I plan to search for other works she may have narrated, because the narration can really make or break a story and this one is a keeper!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jayde
  • 25-08-17

All the drama of China’s history

This is an amazing story. If you have any interest in China’s history then this is a must read. The entire story is first person of a girl growing up in China and the transformations she goes through from choices forced upon her as well as her own good or bad decisions that have natural consequences. Amanda Roberts is an excellent storyteller and knows just how to keep her readers interest.

Leanne Yau does an excellent job reading this story. Her voice fits the characters and she can even pronounce the names that I would have no clue about if I were reading myself. I would call her accent a bit British but that is likely true of Asian English and so fits the story as well.

I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audio book by the author, narrator, or publisher.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • ConnieZ
  • 19-09-17

Wonderful story.....

What a wonderful story, it was very hard for me to put the book down.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • dawn
  • 14-09-17

This was great

Any additional comments?

This audiobook was given to me for a honest unbiased review. This was great. The history gave the story and characters a depth to them. The amount of research for this is not astounding and well worth it, but gives an immersive experience. This was well written.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Taj-Marie Lingofelter
  • 07-10-19

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!

This book was not just a section of someone's life, it was about her whole life. From the age of 6 until her 50s. I would not put this book down! To see the main character grow into herself and how the story develops. This is a book everyone should read. It is a great depiction of how China used to be.

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  • Yvonne
  • 21-09-19

Unraveling & binding life, a spunky Chinese female

I enjoyed this intriguing and evolving story with many twists and turns and would love to listen to other books by this author or narrator. I have already recommended the book to others.

WHAT I LIKED MOST:
*From a 6 year old child to adulthood, Yaqian was so incredibly bold and spunky and was not afraid to speak her mind to her insensitive parents, her exploitative teacher/business woman, and the entitled royals, during a time when females had little worth and were expected to be subservient
*Detailed historical descriptions of the struggle between 19th-century China and the British Empire; plight of young Chinese girls; secrets of the Forbidden City; cultural and class divisions; the torture and weird sexual purposes of foot-binding; intricate art of silk embroidery
*Blunt, non-sugar coated, portrayal of the sexual demands and expectations of young Chinese woman


WHAT I DID NOT PARTICULARLY ENJOY:
*The last section of the book attempted to cover too much time and history and it was presented in a superficial way that left the listener with many unanswered questions

DISCLAIMER: This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review.

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  • Felisha
  • 07-09-19

Fascinating Story

Amanda Roberts tells a fascinating story of the life of a young Chinese girl from the country who finds her self in service to the empire through her embroidery skills.
Roberts does well at twisting in real life history with intriguing fiction; Adventure, love, and intrigue, it was all there. There were true moments I didn’t want to put it down.

However, at times, it seemed that the plot was simply reading a history book and not a novel as it pushed through many years with out much character or plot development, just historical facts. I see how Roberts wished it to end the story by capturing a lifetime, but the story fell lackluster from time to time because of the way it was presented.

Leanne Yau does a marvelous job narrating. She was subtle and her tone rhythmic. I enjoyed her masterful skill of proper pronunciations.

Now, I’m not sure who the editor of the narration was but this is where I would give it a poor review. So many editing errors: repeats of words and phrases and words cut off. I’d highly recommend an re-edit and re upload of the book. It will drastically improve the ratings.

Overall a great read and I’d highly recommend it to those who love historical fiction.

This audiobook was given to me in exchange for an honest review.