The Binding Chair

Kathryn Harrison

Beautiful, charismatic and destructive, May escapes an arranged marriage in rural China for life in a Shanghai brothel, where, in 1899, she meets Arthur, an Australian. As a member of the Foot Emancipation Society, Arthur calls on May not for his pleasure but for her rehabilitation, only to find himself helplessly seduced by the sight of her bound feet. Reforming May is out of the question, so Arthur marries her instead, and brings her home to live with his sister Dolly, her husband Dick, and their two girls Alice and Cecily. In Alice May sees the possibility of redemption: a surrogate for the child she has lost. And it is to May that Alice turns for the love her own mother withholds. But when the twelve-year-old is caught preparing her aunt’s opium pipe, Alice is enrolled in a London boarding school, far from the dangerous influence of the woman who will come to reclaim her, and to control the whole family.

A startling story of travel and flight, the search for home and the need to escape it. Where traditions and cultures clash, tragedy threatens a world built on the banks of unsettled waters – from the filthy, bustling Whangpoo River to the lake of blood in the Chinese afterworld.