Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See

Read Time:4 Minute, 3 Second

In the midst of Confucian beliefs deeming educated women as worthless, Tan Yunxian, raised by her grandparents, learns the pillars of Chinese medicine from her grandmother. Despite societal restrictions, she forges a profound friendship with Meiling, a midwife-in-training. As Yunxian faces an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law imposes limitations, hindering her desire to help women and girls. The story unfolds as Yunxian navigates tradition, seeking liberation and dedicating her life to healing and empowering women. Lady Tan’s Circle of Women showcases the power of friendship and offers a triumphant retelling of an extraordinary woman’s life in the Ming dynasty, with echoes of relevance in today’s world.

Book review of Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

In Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, Lisa See delves into the multifaceted experiences of women in China, offering a detailed and immersive portrayal of their lives. The main characters are depicted with all their strengths and flaws, creating a rich and authentic narrative. See’s writing effortlessly draws readers into the world of her characters, making them feel like they are present in the unfolding stories. Her ability to consistently captivate readers solidifies her status as an author worth following.

This novel leaves readers with a renewed appreciation for the ancient and natural medicine of China. It reignites a sense of pride in being able to assist individuals whom other doctors have given up on. The importance of nourishing Yin for women is also highlighted, serving as a reminder of the need to prioritize self-care and embrace a balance between Yin and Yang in our modern, often chaotic lives.

Lisa See’s meticulous attention to detail shines through once again in Lady Tan’s Circle of Women. Her vivid descriptions bring the characters and settings to life, ensuring they remain etched in readers’ minds long after finishing the book. Through her masterful storytelling, See breathes life into the real Lady Tan and provides a captivating glimpse into the 15th and 16th-century China. Despite the cultural differences, the emotional connections and familial ties depicted resonate with women today, fostering a sense of relatability.

The book is a testament to See’s ability to engross readers, and it holds great appeal for women and book clubs seeking thought-provoking discussions. Personally, I found it impossible to put down, as Lisa See’s writing consistently engages my attention and curiosity. Her research is evident, as it transports me to China, immersing me in its rich culture and traditions. Lady Tan emerges as an admirable character, and her bravery and courage leave a lasting impact, inspiring reflection on my own life.

I commend Lisa See for crafting this beautiful story around a real heroine from 15th and 16th-century China. Lady Tan’s Circle of Women stands out among See’s impressive body of work, captivating readers with its compelling narrative. The exploration of Chinese medicine and the intricacies of palace households in ancient China add depth and intrigue to the novel. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. While some readers may find Lady Tan’s Circle of Women challenging to connect with initially, taking a break and returning to it later may offer a fresh perspective.

Final verdict

In conclusion, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a captivating exploration of women’s lives in ancient China. Lisa See’s meticulous research and vivid storytelling create a compelling narrative that immerses readers in a bygone era. The book offers thought-provoking insights and resonates with modern audiences, making it a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

Our Score


  • Rich and Authentic Portrayal: Lady Tan’s Circle of Women provides a detailed and immersive portrayal of women’s lives in ancient China, showcasing Lisa See’s meticulous research and attention to detail.
  • Compelling Characters: The main characters in the book are brilliantly conceived and complex, making them relatable and engaging for readers. Their journeys and relationships add depth to the narrative.
  • Cultural Exploration: The novel offers a fascinating exploration of Chinese medicine and the intricacies of palace households, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural context.


  • Slow Pace: Some readers may find the book’s pacing slow, especially in the initial chapters. The story takes time to unfold, which might require patience from those seeking a faster-paced read.
  • Initial Difficulty in Connection: While the characters are well-developed, some readers may initially struggle to connect with them due to the cultural and historical gaps. It may take time for the emotional resonance to fully develop.
  • Personal Expectations: If readers have high expectations based on previous works by Lisa See, they may find Lady Tan’s Circle of Women falling short in comparison. Different readers may have varying levels of engagement and enjoyment with the book.
Lady Tans Circle of WomenPublisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner (June 6, 2023)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1982117087
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982117085
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.1 pounds
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 1 x 9 inches

About Article Author

Marcus Wright

Marcus Wright is an avowed serializer and bibliophile. His perfect weekend plan is a series marathon followed by reading a good book. Optimistic by nature, he is always able to see the bright side of things.
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