Jiangnan, that part of east-central China watered by the Yangzi River, is the ironically Edenic setting for these six powerful tales of devotion, betrayal, and defilement. Zhu Lin, a uniquely angry female voice on China's literary scene, takes a particular interest in the plight of young women whose exceptional qualities condemn them to exploitation by men. No other contemporary Chinese writer renders the hostility of rural society toward women in such stark and ultimately tragic terms. Serpents tyrannize the innocent in this fictional Jiangnan garden. The title story refers to a fragrant, blood-red flower known as the snake's pillow, which symbolizes an innocent girl betrayed and violated by a male figure of authority. Zhu Lin has said of her fiction that its purpose is to "summon the souls" of readers who have lost themselves in the turbulence of a society in the transition to modernity - and then to restore these lost souls to the bodies they have left.