June 05, 2009

The Piano Teacher - Janice Y. K. Lee

I have to admit that I picked up The Piano Teacher mainly because of it's stunning cover - I know this is something you should never do but a great cover will grab me every time. I had also read some good things about this one in the blogging world - mainly from Matt - so I did have something to go on besides the beautiful cover!

The Piano Teacher is a book set over two main time periods - 1942 and then 1952/3 in Hong Kong. Will Truesdale is an English man who has come to Hong Kong and fallen in love with Trudy, a wealthy and privileged Eurasian woman, in the period just before the invasion of the Japanese. In 1952 we meet Will again, now working as a driver for an influential couple who have hired Claire, a recently married woman and new in Hong Kong, as a piano teacher for their daughter.

There are some significant events and plot constructions in the novel but for me the real content of the book was the development and "showing" of the characters - just simple dialogue between them was what I enjoyed reading - it wasn't really until the end of the book that I stopped and thought about the plot.

I have to say that I don't think my reading patterns with this book really did it justice. I started it weeks ago and then got distracted/bored with the middle section of the book so I put it aside for a while and picked it up again last night when I finished the second half of the book in one sitting. I think this says more about my need to be reading a book that suits my mood at the time more than anything else.

The characters in The Piano Teacher are intriguing and complex, and written beautifully - at the end of the book I still felt like I had so many questions in relation to each of them - particularly Will and Trudy.

I would call this a subtle book - it crept up on me and I will be thinking about it long after finishing.


Anonymous said...

The somewhat stagnant middle section (unbeknownst to me at the moment of reading) contributed to the outcome of these subtle plots. This book will certainly stick with me for a long time, especially that it set in my hometown during WW2. I miss Trudy after I finished the book. I'll re-read it in the future.

Karen said...

Hi Matt - it is definitely a book that stays with you after reading. Not sure that I will re-read it although I'm sure I would get a lot of doing just that.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I read this one as well some time ago and also put it down for a a few days towards the middle, so it's not just you. All in all it was still a good read.

Anonymous said...

i'm a sucker for a aesthetically pleasing cover, so don't feel bad! i love when books sort of sneak up on you...or stay with you long after you finish reading them. sometimes it's not about the in-your-face plot...but the subtly of language and characterization. i enjoyed your review!

Kim said...

I will definitely look out for this book, Karen. I am living in Hong Kong at the moment and love to read books which are set in familiar territory. Hong Kong has such an interesting history and fictional stories like this just seem to add to it's rich past. Thank you for the review. (I love the cover, too).

Karen said...

Hi Diane - yes - what was it with that middle bit?? It just didn't seem to flow with the rest of the book for me. But I do agree - a great read other than that.

Hi booklineandsinker - yeah - that's definitely how I would describe this one - a creeper and a stayer!

Hi Kim - I think if you are living in Hong Kong than this book would be perfect for you. I have never been to Hong Kong but the author made me feel like I had in a way which was great.

Tara said...

I think subtle is a good word for this book. It's funny, I did enjoy the middle section quite a bit.

Serena said...

I had heard some good reviews of this book, but a stagnant middle would put me off entirely. I think I'll skip this one for now.

I do like the cover.

Karen said...

Hi Tara - it's funny that some sections are painfil for some readers while others really enjoy those parts isn't it?? I'm always interested in things like that.

Hi Serena - the middle part almost put me off this one but I did stick with it. Glad I did in the end.

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