Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Peony in Love: A Novel by Lisa See

Peony in Love: A Novel (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Lisa See

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,6421292,263 (3.58)194
Title:Peony in Love: A Novel
Authors:Lisa See
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2008), Paperback, 297 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Peony in Love by Lisa See (2007)

  1. 51
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel by Lisa See (emib, mcdougaldd)
    mcdougaldd: Both are about women's roles in 17th century China. The author is very good at describing the times and attitudes.
  2. 41
    Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (leahsimone)
  3. 41
    Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (leahsimone)
  4. 20
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (leahsimone)
  5. 20
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Different premise but makes use of what happens to souls in the afterlife
  6. 21
    The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan (loriephillips)
  7. 00
    The Secrets of Jin-shei by Alma Alexander (Yorkist)
  8. 11
    Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Ghosts reach into our world to complete tasks left undone

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 194 mentions

English (129)  German (1)  All (130)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
Peony In Love

This book purports to be an historical novel of China, during or just after the Ming Dynasty (if memory serves me), and may be based on true events of those Chinese women of several hundred years ago.

The book was a bit pretentious, repetitive and at times was so predictable, I really wanted to toss the book out the window as a failed experiment. And there were other times where the novel captured the arrogant men and the subservient women, which women practiced foot-binding, that the author gave in such excruciating detail, that it left nothing to the imagination.

Peony was proud of her bound feet and not to concerned about a few broken bone shards sticking out. She filed them down nicely! Ouch!

The book centers around a Chinese opera called Peony's Pavilion. And our young narrator is also called Peony. And her grandmother is called Peony. The repetition was maddening.

But not only in name but in deed!

Peony is pampered and is allowed to read the love story as depicted in the opera Peony's Pavilion. The character in the tale dies of a broken heart ("love-sick maids") by starving herself to death. The character then haunts her lover and he eventually works it out somehow to bring her back to life.

Peony also knows that men are only allowed to see this opera. The opera can go on for a day or so it is so long. And any women that are allowed to see it, must do so behind a screen so that the men don't see them. Peony wanders and runs into a guy that she immediately falls for.

At the time, her father has arranged a marriage with some man.

[Spoiler: It is so obvious that this man is the same guy that she has been engaged to be married to, it's laughable. So predictable. End Spoiler].

Well, Peony starves herself to death and then haunts her lover, just like in the opera. And, when her lover marries another, Peony's control over this girl is such that this girl (Ze) starts starving to death herself!

Peony is a reclusive, selfish teenage girl, who has made up her mind as to what life is all about and is not about to let others continue to live out their own with her intervention. She wants to be remembered and immortalized, yet has a lot to learn, both in life and in death.

Lisa See writes well regarding Chinese mythology and writes as if these spirits and charms and wards actually work, and show Peony's interaction with hungry ghosts and depraved spirits. I found these caricatures somewhat interesting.

But, not enough to save this sinking ship.

Before you judge the ancient Chinese "tradition" of foot-binding too harshly (and I think it was harsh and horrible, but I digress) I wonder how future generations will look at our present time USA actions of tattooing, piercings and breast augmentation for that elusive socially acceptable "beauty" attainment. Food for thought.

Recommended from a historical perspective as to what Chinese women had to live and strive for when they were looked upon at a level not much above cattle and bags of rice.
( )
  James_Mourgos | Dec 22, 2016 |
Hmmm. Some things were fascinating and explained some of the conversations and ideas I'd hear about in my childhood from my Chinese relatives. Some things were tiresome. See's writing could be compelling and sometimes is, but sometimes seems tortuous and so cloudy when compared to Amy Tan's clear prose. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
What a strange and compelling book. I read it in one day, practically in one sitting. It all had a slow and dream-like quality, which is understandable because the narrator dies and tells most of the story from the afterlife. I think readers expecting the pacing of a traditional novel will be disappointed by Peony’s protracted journey to enlightenment. What kept me reading were the vivid descriptions of daily life, beliefs, and rituals in seventeenth century China. Just fascinating. Warning: There is a horrifying foot-binding scene that made a couple of the characters vomit, and I wanted to also. ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
  nordie | Feb 27, 2016 |
The story opens with 16 year old Peony and her household preparing for a performance of the opera “The Peony Pavilion” which her father has staged and directed at great expense. Visitors have arrived and there is much excitement. The opera is performed over the course of several days, and the young unmarried women are permitted to view it only from behind a screen, because it would be improper for a man outside of their immediate families to see them.
Peony, an only child, is educated and well loved, unlike many ‘useless’ girls of her time. She is lovely with her tiny bound feet and delicate lily gait. She has studied the opera, considered a danger by some, and has many opinions and feelings about it. Through the screen she can see some of the guests and a section of the stage. She glimpses a handsome young man in the audience and, during a particularly poignant scene, is overcome with emotion and needs to move about. Quite by accident, she encounters this young man (a sensitive poet who was also moved by the scene) in a courtyard of her home. Ashamed at being seen yet drawn to him, they have a few moments together boldly speaking about the opera.
Peony finds a way to meet this young man twice more. Her mother discovers she has been out, and fearing the appearance of impropriety, banishes the betrothed Peony to her room. Though she never learns the poet’s name, Peony becomes obsessed with the idea of him. Her father has already arranged a marriage for her but she is lovesick for her poet, consumed by thoughts of him and wishing to marry him. Ever the dutiful daughter, she continues to prepare for her marriage but also begins a project based on The Peony Pavilion, obsessively recording her thoughts on love in the margins. She starts refusing food and ignores the advice of her doctors. Her mother, alarmed and desperate to make Peony well again, burns every edition of The Peony Pavilion that she can find in a vain attempt to shock Peony back into health. By the time Peony realizes she has made a horrible mistake about her sensitive poet, she is on her deathbed and it is too late.

But that is just the beginning of this love story. Peony learns about yearning and romantic love as a young girl; she later discovers physical love as a hungry ghost, and ‘deep heart’ love as a sister-wife in the afterworld. She finds a way to make her voice heard and to live on even after death.

The novel is rich with tradition and history, the portrayal of seventeenth century China so detailed and vivid. There is so much to learn here, such as the closeting of young girls. Peony has never been outside of her family compound/estate in all of her fifteen and sixteen years and rarely is she allowed outside. When she witnesses the play with her cousins, they are secluded behind screens so that they cannot be seen by any men. There are very, very vivid descriptions of the process in which footbinding is achieved. It is an absolutely horrific thing to read about and I actually felt quite ill after reading the descriptions of how it happens and the bones that need to break and the effects of the tight bindings and the agony through which the girls go through to achieve this desirable look. They are small girls when the process starts and the pain is terrible and lasts for a long time.

Peony In Love is also filled with the spiritual beliefs of China of the time and I had no idea that these beliefs existed. The rules for after death seem almost as strict and multi-layered as they were in life and the Chinese were deeply respectful to their dead ancestors, making offerings to them on a frequent basis so that they would be benevolent to them from the after world and so that they would never go hungry, without clothes or possessions, etc. They also were respectful of the people whose bodies had not been prepared in the proper way post death for their journey into the spirit world (named hungry ghosts) with a specific time when they leave offerings for them as well.

Not just a story of a teenager in love, Peony In Love was a fascinating look at historical China – the beliefs, the family and social structures, the customs, the rituals that made up the culture. Steeped in real life event and folklore, the novel gives a broad experience of the era, the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Manchus. ( )
  AlexisLovesBooks | Feb 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For BOB LOOMIS, in celebration of his fifty years at Random House
First words
Two days before my sixteenth birthday, I woke up so early that my maid was still asleep on the floor at the foot of my bed.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812975227, Paperback)

“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.

So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In seventeenth-century China, three women become emotionally involved with "The Peony Pavilion," a famed opera rumored to cause lovesickness and even death.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

LibraryThing Author

Lisa See is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

profile page | author page

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.58)
0.5 1
1 30
1.5 7
2 62
2.5 22
3 202
3.5 50
4 273
4.5 26
5 141


4 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

Peony in Love by Lisa See was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 111,653,480 books! | Top bar: Always visible