The excrement is finally hitting the spinning blades. In what has to be the most action packed quarter of the book so far, we find the Jia family running amok. Not only are they eating their way through their quite substantial savings, but they’re also starting to lose family members to suicide and disease. Oh, and Baoyu is still as useless as ever, despite him growing up into a teenager.

As the story continues to unfold, we follow events that must undoubtedly lead to the downfall of the entire Jia family from both favour and wealth. First, there are the schemes of some of the men to marry women or take on concubines, mostly due to thinking with the brain least conducive to clear thinking. As you can imagine, this creates jealousy, arguments and leads some characters to commit suicide. Well, at least the story gets slightly less complicated as the chapters pass…

We also see the reemergence of the moods of Daiyu, which yet again means she is always upset or crying. Half the time, she is constantly worried about her health – which sets her off – and the other half she is thinking about her status as an orphan, which also sets her off. She reminds me of the kid that cries about everything, even if he gets what he wants. Even worse, she goes off the deep end and gets suicidal when she hears a rumour that Baoyu is being married off to somebody else.

Despite all of this, the story is finally starting to get more interesting as events feel like they’re starting to snowball towards a conclusion. The only other time I’ve ever felt like this is my excitement at how things picked up after Fellowship of the Ring. Admittedly, that took me nearly an entire year to read, but the subsequent books in the trilogy took me two months.

As I begin the final quarter, there’s a general sense of malaise and unease in the Jia clan. Various members of the Jia clan have problems within their own family units due to bad choices in marriage, consequences of bad behaviour, while everyone is starting to suffer from a lack of income and nobody is really able to step up to sort out the mess they find themselves in. As the infighting grows, I can’t help but feel that it is the beginning of the end of a once prestigious family.


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