In the sweeping tradition of The English Patient, a gripping tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong
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 as World War II overwhelms their part of the world. Will is sent to an internment camp, where he and other foreigners struggle daily for survival. Meanwhile, Trudy remains outside, forced to form dangerous alliances with the Japanesein particular, the malevolent head of the gendarmerie, whose desperate attempts to locate a priceless collection of Chinese art lead to a chain of terrible betrayals.
Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughters piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the heady social life of the expatriate community. At one of its elegant cocktail parties, she meets Will, to whom she is instantly attractedbut as their affair intensifies, Claire discovers that Wills enigmatic persona hides a devastating past. As she begins to understand the true nature of the world she has entered, and long-buried secrets start to emerge, Claire learns that sometimes the price of survival is love.
The Piano Teacher was a shoo-in for recommendation at BookBrowse - a first novel set in an interesting place and time with excellent prepublication reviews. Thus, on receiving one reviewer's negative response to the book, it was reassigned to a second just to make sure. Sadly, both reviewers are in agreement that The Piano Teacher does not live up to the hype. Both cited similar criticisms. Firstly, a general flatness to the writing .... "it reads like a 'beach novel' - the focus is more on getting the story told than on focusing on the particularities of how that story is being told or on the finer nuances of character development." Secondly, that the writing has a forced quality to it; we are told how the characters feel rather than 'seeing' their experiences through their eyes. Thirdly, a number of factual inaccuracies give the reader pause to wonder what other period details might be in question; for example, in one scene set in 1953 a character refers to the country of Myanmar - but it wasn't until 1989 that the military government of Burma changed the English version of the country's name to Myanmar.
"Starred Review. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances." - Publishers Weekly.
"Starred Review. Her adept pacing slowly exposes the inevitability of tragedy that engulfs her characters." - Library Journal.
"... a rich and intimate look at what happens to people under extraordinary circumstances." - Booklist.
About the Author
Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong and went to boarding school in the United States before attending Harvard College. She is a former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines in New York. The Piano Teacher is her first book.
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Rated of 5
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K Lee
I found this book in a second hand shop and was unable to put it down!
I found the way Janice Lee builds up the tension in the story by back tracking to Will & Trudy and then forward to Claire's "time" very good. It showed that Claire was as much a victim of circumstances as Trudy( and maybe as much of an opportunist in a different way to Trudy). Both women making the best of circumstances. It was good that it didn't have a trite and happy ending and that Claire developed enough backbone to live on her own and realise that she could survive without Will, and on her own terms also. For me, a truly remarkable book.
Rated of 5
Very disappointing. It sounded potentially interesting, but it really fell flat. I disliked all of the characters, especially some of the main ones, which made it difficult to keep reading. The author doesn't really give you a reason to care for the people or what happened to them. It just happened and here it is, and not in a very well-developed way.
Rated of 5
The Piano Teacher
I was browsing at a local chain book store when I happened upon this treasure remembering it listed on BookBrowse. If memorable characters, circumstance, and twist of fates interest you. I recommend this book. Simply written, yet memorable, The Piano Teacher provides plenty of visualization, twists, schemes, romance, adaptation, betrayal, and survival in bountiful, as well as trying times.
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