A Dream of Red Mansions (Chinese Classics, Classic Novel in 4 Volumes)
I've stumbled upon an abbreviated version of this book, which contained only 500 pages, and I've so fallen in love with it that I had to purchase the whole rendering, which amounts to almost 2000 pages. There are two fully unabridged translations, and this one is simply excellent. Unlike some other reviewers I find the English language here more than adequate, and the style more than satisfactory, doing honor to the unique original book, I'm sure. The story takes place in old China, describing the life of a young nobleman,- inspired by the author's only son who died young,- his rich background, his loves and disappointments, all that in a mystical way yet with the most elaborated accent on the noble family's daily-life. There are no words to describe the fascination,- the aesthetic appeal that looms from every page,- the garden-scenes which get names in the form of short poems (not unlike the Haiku and Tanka traditional Japanese poems, probably inspired by this Chinese tradition). Reading this book makes the reader actually earn a PHD on the classical Chinese culture of 200-300 years ago, including their costumes, their habits,- (burying faded flowers, crying over them,- can there be anything more touching,- and charming?), their political plots,- the family described being that of noble people who serve the Emperor,- the differences between the masters and the servants, their foods, their sicknesses and cures. You walk with the heroes in their exquisite gardens, full of artificial mountains, brooks, bridges, and of course exotic trees and flowers, you breathe the typical scents, get acquainted with their daily life, the ranks of importance inside the family, (the old widowed grandmother being like their queen, entitled to beat her grownup sons with a cane...) the strict rules of courtship and marriage, their strange illnesses and remedies. Moreover, since the Chinese used to believe in tangible Gods and Goddesses, the other world mixes invariably with this life, and dreams can be simply visits beyond the clouds. Just like Shakespeare, this author too brings ghosts, Gods, magic spells and items into the plots, making the reader swim in the book as if inside the huge brain of interlaced heaven and earth, feasting on both interchangeably. Then come the intricate plots, many of them, interwoven in each other, each one a little drama in the best Shakespearean style, people living and dying for jealousy, envy, greed, treachery, chastity, love,- not unlike Romeo and Juliet, not Italian but Chinese. This book is simply unique, a marvel of beauty, tragedies, exultations, all discovered on each page. Maybe I should simply say that it's the most beautiful book I've ever read. Mind you, I have nothing to do with China, so I am impartial. Recommended with 50 stars out of 5!!! Enjoy!!!By the way it's been one of the 10 bestsellers of all times. So, I'm not alone. Join the "Redists", as the admirers of this book are officially called.... You'll find in it surprises of all kinds you've never dreamt of!!