Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee
336 pages
Published January 2009 by Penguin Group

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.

Katherine, at agirlwalksintoabookstore.blogspot.com, reviewed this book and said:
"I would have liked to have found out more about Will and Claire’s relationship, too: why are they drawn together, since they seem to have nothing in common? Too, there’s a lot that’s implied about what happened during the war, especially to Trudy and her cousin, Dommie; but we never find out for sure. And the “villain” in this novel wasn’t quite what I expected, either. His motivations for doing what he did are a little odd. But as I’ve said, the writing is beautiful, the research is superb, and the setting is fantastic."

My review:
This book is beautifully written and well researched. It is about a part of WWII I was not familiar with, set in a love story. The back and forth between the two time periods can sometimes become confusing, but I liked Lee's use of gossip in the latter time period to tell the story of the early time period. I would have to agree with agirlwalkedintoabookstore's assessment of the relationship between Will and Claire but I thought the relationship between Will and Trudy was very well written and Trudy was a fascinating, complex character. I did not have a problem with Lee leaving some things to the reader's imagination although I do agree that the motivation of the "villain" should have been more clear. The issues between the classes, races and nationalities were well explored and made for excellent reading.


  1. That book looks so good to me. I find the cover very appealing.

  2. In this case, you can judge a book by it's cover!

  3. whoah! I like the books you're blogging about.

    yeah, totally you can judge a book by its cover this time.