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Pavilion of Women Summary

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China, 1938: Intelligent and well-read, Madam Wu is the envy of all who know her. The Wu family is the richest and most powerful family in her town. Servants tend to her every need, her house and clothes are gorgeous, and she is as beautiful and serene as a traditional wife could want to be. Yet as the town celebrates her 40th birthday, Madame Wu scandalizes the gathering by announcing she will arrange for a much younger woman to be her husband's concubine, thereby ending her conjugal relationship with him. Her decision throws the family--one of the oldest in China--into an uproar, but she manages the transition as she does everything else in the extended family of over sixty relatives. Alone in her own quarters, she enjoys her new-found freedom and reads books denied her in the past. When her son begins English lessons, she too starts learning from the free-thinking missionary named Brother Andre, who changes her life when he falls in love with her.