What are booksellers reading? This week, Stephanie Crowe, of the Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope, Ala., recommends The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry.

Alexandra Curry’s novel The Courtesan (Dutton, Sept.) captures the real life of Sai Jinhua, a legendary courtesan who lived in China during the late 1880s. After inheriting a privileged life, Sai is sold into the sex trade at the age of seven, and her struggle to deal with this change in circumstance, and her new life in a brothel, is heart-wrenching. Sai captures the attention of a diplomat, and her life changes for the better—her travels to Europe broaden her horizons, and she gains confidence and sophistication.