The brutal realities of the dark places Su Tong depicts in this collection of novellas set in 1930s provincial China worlds of prostitution, poverty, and drug addiction belie his prose of stunning and simplebeauty. The title novella, "Raise the Red Lantern," which became a critically acclaimed film, tells the story of Lotus, a young woman whose father's suicide forces her to become the concubine of a wealthy merchant. Crushed by loneliness, despair, and cruel treatment, Lotus finds her descent into insanity both a weapon and a refuge.
"Nineteen Thirty-Four Escapes" is an account of a family's struggles during one momentous year; plagued by disease, death, and the shady promise of life in a larger town, the family slowly disintegrates.
Finally, "Opium Family" details the last years of a landowning clan whose demise is brought about by corruption, lust, and treachery fruits of the insidious crop they harvest.