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

by Lisa See

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,6641322,235 (3.58)194
Member:Mirna974
Title:Peony in Love: A Novel
Authors:Lisa See
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2008), Edition: First Paperback Edition, Paperback, 297 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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
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» See also 194 mentions

English (132)  German (1)  All (133)
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
The author's research on these obscure and ancient subjects was amazing, as was the bounty of rich details in this book. The story takes place in 17th century China, around the fall of the Ming dynasty, during the Manchu invasion and into the Qing dynasty. I strongly urge readers to first read about this book on Lisa See's website before embarking on the story. The history behind the story will add a lot to the reader's enjoyment and understanding. I did this about halfway through the book and wished I'd done it sooner.

I listened to this book on CD and the reader was excellent. The historical information followed at the end and it would have been better placed at the beginning. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of the book, before understanding some of the history. Peony, the main character, dies and continues to narrate in ghost form. However, this is a significant part of the history, beliefs, customs, and rituals of the time and is a clever way to introduce and expound upon them.

The story won't go down as one of my favorites, but it may be one of the more memorable. It's basically a love story and also a coming-of-age and maturing story, but more than that, it's a historical account of what life was like for women in this era in China. I don't read love stories unless there's something else compelling about the book -- something more than another darn love story. This book is so much more. I learned a whole lot of history. The foot binding scenes are grueling and enlightening.

I understand the author likes to tell the forgotten stories, the ones that are little-known. I applaud her for telling the women's stories, many of which were destroyed over the centuries. She turned research material into a history lesson and a story. It's wonderful really, whether you like the story or not. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I think this is probably one of those stories you either really like or don't. It sort of reminds me of a fable. The writing is good, but the storyline isn't for me. Women are just property. There's so much tragedy. It made me feel depressed. Sometimes the sad parts in a book give me the feels, but this just made me feel sorry for them and downhearted. ( )
  ToniFGMAMTC | Jan 19, 2017 |
I think this is probably one of those stories you either really like or don't. It sort of reminds me of a fable. The writing is good, but the storyline isn't for me. Women are just property. There's so much tragedy. It made me feel depressed. Sometimes the sad parts in a book give me the feels, but this just made me feel sorry for them and downhearted. ( )
  ToniFGMAMTC | Jan 19, 2017 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
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For BOB LOOMIS, in celebration of his fifty years at Random House
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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

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