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

by Janice Y. K. Lee

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1,8841135,501 (3.33)143
  1. 10
    Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester (sungene)
    sungene: Same setting, similar plot and structure (two time periods), thoroughly researched, a love song to Hong Kong, deeply felt characters.
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Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)
Started out slowly and gracelessly--I kept reading only because it was the selection for my book club--but it got exciting toward the end. One of those books I can't remember two week after I finished it. I did care about Trudy. She was an interesting character. ( )
  cmt100 | Mar 12, 2019 |
This book could have been SO good. Just look at the beautiful cover art! I had such high expectations for this story, fueled mainly by the partial review by Elle magazine featured on the cover: "Riveting... This season's Atonement." EXCUSE ME. How DARE that dumb magazine compare this beach read to one of Ian McEwan's masterpieces? The ending just fizzled out. In fact, the entire last third of the book was fizzling. No me gusta. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
As many readers have noted, this book starts out as a pleasant story, alternating between high society in 1940's Hong Kong, and 1950's Hong Kong. Not very interesting, but then everything changes as war starts in 1941, and when it has ended in the 50's. Lee's story puts us right in the action, you read about a very different wartime experience, and this is a tale that weaves and unwinds credibly! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
British ex-pats living the high live in pre-war Hong Kong find themselves on the losing end of the equation when the Japanese invade. Should make for a fascinating historical fiction, yes? No.

I think the main problem is that the author couldn't decide whether she wanted to write a serious historical fiction about war-torn Hong Kong or a frothy, fluffy chick lit romance with lengthy descriptions of clothing and decor. She tried to do both and failed at both. (I never read the author notes until I finish the book, but it didn't surprise me at all to find she'd previous worked at Elle and Mirabella, neither exactly known for good writing. This also could explain the fixation on clothes and hair in the book.)

There is some back and forth in time in the book. That usually doesn't bother me, but the transitions were messy and disjointed. The characters never came to life, never made me care what happened to them.

If I hadn't been reading it for a book club, I would have never finished it. (I almost didn't finish it anyway.) Probably the worst thing about it was that it had the potential to be so much better. ( )
  Yaaresse | Apr 24, 2018 |
Interesting historical fiction debut! I'm not really into military history/WWII books, and most that I've read are Western-centric, deal with the Holocaust, etc. So it was a pleasant (I guess, considering the topic) surprise to read a book during some of the same time period, except looking at the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and the aftermath. These are the settings for Lee's book.
 
Claire Pendleton is a newlywed who married to escape her family/home and becomes a piano teacher for Locket Chen. Locket's parents, the parents chauffeur Will and Claire become entangled in a story that alternates between WWII and the post-war Hong Kong. Will was involved with Trudy, the cousin of Locket's father. Will and Trudy's relationship will link them, Locket and Claire with devastating effects that will reverberate for the family and Clare and Will.
 
It was quite slow-going at first. The book alternates between the WWII (Will)/post-war (Claire) storylines, with large sections dedicated to each. Normally this drives me bananas but Lee was skilled enough to divide the stories without everything and every character blending together as one big mess. However, despite the book being about (presumably) the piano teacher, Claire, she's actually very much a side-character in all of this. The author actually follows Will much more (he's also arguably much more interesting than Claire).
 
The ending was also a bit weak, focusing on Claire for no apparent rhyme or reason. Some of her resolution was quite nice (her farewell to a particular character was quite sad, especially as this character probably has no idea the importance they played in this story), but I was somewhat surprised by her decision of where to live. I found it somewhat unexpected and not really in line with her character, although to be fair Claire didn't get much development. I also found the ending of Will's part unsatisfying as well, particularly as he was the more interesting character.
 
I wasn't particularly impressed by the debut (there are some things that are telegraphed and/or predicable), but I thought Lee did a great job in capturing Japanese-occupied Hong Kong and post-war attitudes. I don't know a lot about this place during this time period but it seems the author did her research. And as you can expect in an occupied place during wartime, you'll get a glimpse of some of the atrocities that happen: starvation, torture, beatings, terrible living conditions, people doing all sorts of things to survive. Lee spares us the details, but there's enough left to the imagination.
 
Still, overall it was an interesting read. I got it as a bargain book and that seems right. Perhaps a library borrow would be better. I'm looking forward to reading her next book!
  ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
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Book description
In the sweeping tradition of "The English Patient" comes this gripping tale set in war-torn Hong Kong.

Rich with intrigue, romance, and betrayal, this wonderfully written, utterly captivating novel dazzles . . .--Chang-rae Lee.

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 Japanese - in 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 daughter's 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 attracted - but as their affair intensifies, Claire discovers that Will's 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.
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Hired by the wealthy Chen family as a piano instructor, Claire Pendleton is seduced by the social life of Hong Kong's expatriate community and begins an affair with Will Truesdale, an enigmatic Englishman with a devastating past.

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