Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Piano Teacher" by Janice Y.K Lee (2009)

In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them and for members of their fragile community, who will betray one another in the darkest days of the war.

Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter's piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony's heady social life. She soon begins an affair... only to discover that her lover's enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past.

As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges - between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and, above all, the past.

The novel is split into two time periods: 1940's, and ten years later, both in Hong Kong.
  • Very engaging book. In all actuality though, I found the 1940 storyline much more vivid and interesting than the 1950 storyline; Claire is a boring girl (though I understand that the author probably made her that way to let the readers see her development).
  • Trudy is an extremely singular character, she really stands out in the pages - through her quirks, her fickle observations, etc. She is witty and charming, resourceful and practical, and ultimately proves to be somebody truly good in such a devastating time period, which makes her downfall even more tragic.
  • Will also packs on allure and interest in the story, which is good since he is such an integral part of the novel. He is constantly haunted by his regrets and his past love, and it makes the reader feel for him.
  • The pieces really connect together in the end, as you gather bits of information from everybody in the small community. There are a few things that are never explicitly explained (what spooked Victor with Will in the car, what really happened to Trudy), but it does not distract away from the story and lets the reader interpret these small mysteries using other clues and what is already known. I felt like that really added on to the destructive and chaotic nature of war.
  • Overall, most of the characters are so alive and human that you can feel as if you're really seeing them as you read.
By the time I had reached the end, I was truly sad for these characters, which hardly ever happens to me when I read a book. This is a very well-written historical fiction, and I would highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in WWII, Hong Kong/China, or even anyone who just likes romance.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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