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Bound (2006)

Bound (2006)
Rating
3.69 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
0689861788 (ISBN13: 9780689861789)
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English
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publisher
simon pulse
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Bound (2006)
Bound (2006)

About book: It's been so many years since I've read anything by Donna Jo Napoli -- I think more than a decade -- so I was pleased to find that she still "held up" after all this time, especially since I stopped reading her because I seem to have OD'd and found her books not "doing it" for me the same way they used to.It's clear from Napoli's retellings that she has the utmost respect for her source material, and I admire that. She doesn't try too hard to find a "gimmick" or "twist" to make her retellings sensational; instead, she simply sinks deeply and richly into the source material, particularly the psychology of the characters and the seemingly bizarre choices they make.This is the first time I've read a Cinderella retelling that harkens back to some of the earliest, Chinese source materials, and I really liked the change of setting. The story is still there -- the stepmother, a half sister, an orphaned and disadvantaged daughter -- but there's a subtly different light cast upon it. At first glance this book seems to be less dark than some of Napoli's other work, but the scenes with the raccoon kittens and the ultimate fate of Xing Xing's fish prove that Napoli still does not shy away from the more disturbing aspects of fairy tales. Napoli's characters are not two-dimensional -- Xing Xing's sister, who suffers the pain of bound feet, is a sympathetic character that Xing Xing genuinely pities and cares for. The stepmother, while dismissive and sometimes cruel to Xing Xing, is also made more believable for the pressure she feels to marry off her daughter so that the family can survive in a culture where three women alone are worth very little. Her cruelty is interspersed with moments of kindness, so that one does not feel the sort of simmering hatred of her that the stepmother usually inspires. It would have been soul-crushing to live under her roof, just the same.There is a lot of buildup, so that the ending (the "ball," the search for the owner of the shoe, etc.) seems rushed. I never really "bought" the character of the prince, nor did I feel totally confident Xing Xing was heading off to a happily ever after. But since the romance aspect is probably the least alluring to me in the Cinderella story, it didn't bother me too much to have it downplayed here.

Don't let the cover of this book fool you, for it did me. One might think that this is a novel about foot binding in China. While foot binding is an element of the novel, the word "bound" comes to take on several meanings."Bound" centers around Xing Xing. Xing Xing has recently experienced the death of her father and her mother died when she was seven. Xing Xing is now fourteen and lives with her stepmother and half-sister in a cave home in Ming China. Xing Xing had a close relationship with her father and is frequently visited by the reincarnated spirit of her mother in the form of a beautiful carp. However, home life is not what it was for Xing Xing when her father was alive.Now, Xing Xing has been reduced to the life of a servant. Much of her necessity is do to the fact that Stepmother has bound feet and cannot move around without difficulty. Xing Xing's father would not allow Stepmother to bind her daughter's (Wei Ping, Xing Xing's half-sister) feet when she was young. As soon as Xing Xing's father passed away, Stepmother immediately began the process of binding Wei Ping's feet in the hope that she will be desirable for a husband. This leaves Wei Ping in excruciating pain and Xing Xing the only able-bodied household member. Initially, the central theme of "Bound" is hard to decipher. The majority of the book centers around the hardships and chores that Xing Xing must endure due to the temperament and physical state of her stepmother and half-sister. The most interesting facet of the novel is Xing Xing's fluctuating perspective. She comes in and out of subservience and self-preservation. One cannot tell if she is the stereotypical daughter who will always do what she is told in the name of honor and family, or if she will give head to her radical thoughts and break away from total allegiance to her stepmother.This book is a nice, quick read. Despite the indefinite plot for much of the book, the daily life that Napoli describes is captivating and told with a fresh perspective. Xing Xing is a dynamic character to whom the reader grows attached and endeared. The delightful surprise ending leaves one with a feeling of satisfaction and delight.
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Reviews
Dana
This story is an ancient Chinese re-telling of the story of Cinderella. Xing Xing is bound to her dead father's second wife and her daughter Wei Ping. It is a life of servitude and tied by bonds of family and culture. Girls in this position can expect nothing and are treated little more than slaves.Wei Ping's feet were bound immediately after her father's death and are extremely painful. Her father did not agree with this practice but her mother wants to negotiate a good marriage for her and sees this as a necessity.Wei Ping is not an awful step-sister but one the reader feels a great deal of sympathy for. She can not do much for herself and has terrible ordeals because of her feet. The step-mother on the other hand is greedy and very desperate for her daughter to marry before all their money is gone.The Prince part of the story was almost an after-thought and very little of the story was devoted to this. I felt it could have been fleshed out a little bit more. I loved the historical part of this book and was very interested in the foot binding.
Cristina
Text SummaryXing Xing, a teenage girl living during the Ming Dynasty, is bound... to a life of servitude and loneliness now that her father and mother have passed on. She is left in the “care” of her stepmother, who shows no care for Xing Xing at all. Xing Xing is expected to complete all chores around the cave, including cooking and cleaning, and ironically Stepmother still refers to Xing Xing as “Lazy One.” All of the care and attention is given to Xing Xing’s stepsister, Wei Ping, who is being prepped for marriage by having her feet bound (a Chinese tradition), leaving her practically bedridden and in pain. Xing Xing goes to great lengths to take care of Stepmother and Wei Ping without receiving much of anything in return. Until one day, Xing Xing stumbles upon some secret gifts left to her by her mother, which initiate a series of events that may change the course of Xing Xing’s life forever. Xing Xing is “bound” for more. Literary MeritsSet during the Ming Dynasty in northern China, Donna Jo Napoli, recreates the classic Cinderella story in her novel, Bound. Throughout the story, Napoli weaves fairy tale with history in order to create a whimsical, yet realistic tale. Embedded in her depiction of Chinese history are traditions, thematic and cultural elements specific to the time period as well (e.g. the balance of yin and yang, the objectivity of women, the teachings of Kong Fu Zi). Classroom RecommendationsThis text would be appropriate for middle school and high school students (~grades 7-12). The text would work well in a unit focused or including any of the following themes: family relationships (loyalty to family vs. self), determination, bridging past and present (ancestry). Napoli exposes the issue of the objectivity and inequality of women in Chinese culture and tradition (feet binding, wives being sold off, etc.), which could be further analyzed through other texts. For the younger students, the movie Mulan came to mind when I was reading this and thinking of other Chinese texts/films with similar themes and content that might appeal to younger readers.
Yang-Ha Kim
Very interesting historical fiction, mixing it with the tale of Cinderella. Though short, it is filled with facts of Ancient China and explains its story through the mind of a compassinate Chinese girl, including poems. It's one of my favorites.Xing Xing, named "Stars" from her beloved dececsed mother, now serves her stepmother and her half sister after her father dies. Bound and in pain, her step sister Wei Pang lives a life only of being served and only with the goal of being married to a rich man. Xing Xing is little loved by her step mother and does all the hard chores and work. Now their family is slowly becoming poorer, becoming more desperate for Wei Pang to find a husband. The mother continues to bound her feet, attempting to make Wei Pang more attractive to the men. Will Xing Xing, unbound and intelligent, find a way with her life that will allow her to be who she wants? Specially with her stepmother and the rules of Ancient China?
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