Read with Sharon - December 2023

Lady Tan's Circle of Women - Lisa See

In a conversation with Carol Fitzgerald at the Book Reporter, she mentioned that Lisa See’s Lady Tan’s Circle of Women was her favorite read of 2023. (And trust me, Carol is hard to impress!) So with that in mind, I downloaded the book on my Kindle and dove straight in. What a fabulous recommendation and incredible story!

Set in 15th-century China, it’s the story of Tan Yunxian whose life is forever changed after her mother dies and she is sent to live with her grandparents. Though uncharacteristic of the time, Yunxian’s grandmother is a doctor and trains her granddaughter in the art of Chinese Medicine.

Yunxian also meets the daughter of a midwife, Meiling, with whom she forms a deep friendship. But the day for Yunxian to marry inevitably comes, ripping her away from everything she knows and loves.

Based on a real-life events of a 15th century Chinese physician, it’s a story of courage, perseverance and the powerful bonds of friendship.

This month, we are truly blessed to be joined by Lisa See . She doesn’t do many book club discussions (especially three days after Christmas!) so please mark your calendars on Thursday, December 28 at 7:00 pm EDT.

Buy the Book


“Whether animal or woman, we are a man’s possessions. We women exist to give him heirs and feed, clothe and amuse him. Never forget that,” Respectful Lady instructs our narrator at the beginning of Lisa See’s latest novel, “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women.” This scene, which takes place as mother and daughter endure the anguish of foot binding, sets the tone for the book.

The lives of women in 15th-century China are illuminated in this engrossing novel.

Tan Yunxian was a real historical figure who published a book about her career as a physician, but little is known about her personal life. See creates a rich story about a girl born into an aristocratic family.

Lady Tan's Circle of Women - Lisa See

Book Club Questions


  1. What did you think of Yunxian?
  2. How does the death of Respectful Lady shape Yunxian?


  1. The story begins with a preface which includes the line “My cousin has excelled at treating women because she has shared in the losses and joys of what it means to be a female on this earth.” How does this set up the story and what is to come for Yunxian?
  2. Each character—and Yunxian’s relationship to that person—changes and evolves over time. How does Yunxian come to see and understand the different characters?
  3. The importance of having a son was critical in ancient China. It still is in many countries and cultures around the world. What are the main plotlines in the novel related to this issue?


  1. Did it work for you? What would you have changed?
  2. What do you think is the author’s message to readers of Lady Tan’s Circle of Women?
  3. What did you take away from the book?
  4. Are you left with any questions?


  1. Did you notice any symbolism?
  2. What foreshadowing did you notice? 


  1. Use one adjective to describe the writing itself.
  2. What would you change if you could rewrite Lady Tan’s Circle of Women?


  1. What did you love most about the book?
  2. Did the book change any views/opinions that you have?

Lady Tan's Circle of Women - Lisa See