Monday, November 7, 2011

Julie's Review: The Piano Teacher

Summary: In the sweeping tradition of The English Patient, Janice Y.K. Lee's debut novel is a tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong. In 1942, Englishman Will Truesdale falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese as World War II overwhelms their part of the world. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong to work as a piano teacher and also begins a fateful affair. As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine, impossible choices emerge-between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and above all, the past.

Review: This book has been in my TBR pile for quite a while, so when Adam at Roofbeam Reader did his TBR Challenge this one was an easy choice. The Piano Teacher was a great novel about the effects of war on a society, a country and of course the people. What I found interesting about the book is that it is told from two different view points, Will Truesdale in the early 1940s and Claire in the early 1950s. It's not the different viewpoints that make this unique it's how Ms. Lee wrote them; Clare is told in first person and Will's story is told in third person narrative. I have no doubt that this was done on purpose for a couple of reasons: 1) Since Clare's story is told by her you feel more connected to her and her story, 2)Will's story is told in a disconnected manner because Will is disconnected from his past and has regrets that he will never overcome, because of this I definitely felt more connected to Claire and never really understood Will, even in the end.

I loved reading about Hong Kong society in the 1940s and how it did change after 1950 but how a lot of things stayed the same. The old bigotries never really died and by the end you understood how black some people's souls really were. I can't imagine having to pick sides during a war just to survive, only to be labeled a traitor and never recover from that. I've always imagine Hong Kong to be a vibrant, lively city and Ms. Lee definitely describes it that way. I was transported to that city in her detailed descriptions of the markets and the buildings.

There were a few twists and turns but nothing that I didn't figure out when the first clue was dropped, but it was an interesting turn of events for the characters involved. For me the best parts of the book were I and II. In Part III I felt like it lost what the story was for me and I couldn't get it back.

I liked Claire and her story of being a "fish out of water" rang true to me and I truly enjoyed how she came into her own by the end of the novel. In the end, I felt that Will would always be living in the past and filled with regrets, so I pitied him.

This might not have been my favorite historical fiction but I did enjoy the different perspective on World War II.

Final Take: 3.50/5



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