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The Piano Teacher (by Janice Lee) Reviews
#1003 in Books


Ambitious, exotic, and a classic book club read, 'The Piano Teacher' is a combination of 'Tenko' meets 'The Remains of the Day'. Sometimes the end of a love affair is only the beginning...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, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton lands in 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 colony's heady social life. She soon begins an affair!only to discover that her lover's enigmatic demeanour hides a devastating past. As the threads of this compelling and engrossing novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges - between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and above all, the past.

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    Recommended? You Betcha!
    October 06, 2009

    This book was featured for the ChickAdvisor Book Club recently. The story switches between late WWII and the early 1950s in Hong Kong, a tale of secrets, betrayal, survival, and the loss of innocence.

    The title suggests that the piano teacher, Claire, is the main character. She is more of a metaphor of change, how pliable we could become in certain situations. She begins an affair with an emotionally distant man, unaware of how his past will affect her future.

    The book is rich with details of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during the war, a hodgepodge city filled with many different nationalities and customs - and how each responded to the situation. The characters are well-developed and the story is engrossing. It asks the question: "what would you do if ___?"

    This is Janice Lee's first novel. For a debut I'm quite impressed; but she does get a little bogged down trying to weave her intricate plot together. This is a great book for discussion and multiple read-throughs to sort out all the nuances. If you're looking for a fun, snappy read, this is not the book for you.

    I heard it compared with Memoirs of a Geisha. Not an unfair comparison, but Geisha does read a little easier.

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