THE PIANO TEACHER by Janice Y. K. Lee

The January Marie Claire featured a book called The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y. K. Lee.  From the magazine:

Claire Pendleton's in a bad place. She just married a guy she doesn't like, who uproots her from her comfy British home to glitzy, racially charged 1950s Hong Kong. There, she finds a job as a piano teacher for a well-to-do family and falls for their brooding chauffeur, who harbors his own secrets. (OK, we'll tell – a former flame.) In her debut novel, Lee tells two engrossing love stories, both involving the same man. Just hide your phone before cracking this one open – or risk calling your ex.

Bookmarks Literary Blog enjoyed this book, giving it this positive review:

Lee Lee's Hong Kong is evocative and cinematic. Sights, sounds and smells are all richly described and anchor the narrative firmly to a sense of time and place. Her background allows her a unique perspective of the city — as both a local and an outsider. Born in Hong Kong, she lived there until the age of 15. A Harvard graduate and former editor at Elle magazine, she later returned to Hong Kong and lives there now. These experiences vitalize her narrative and help emphasize the cultural divide between locals and expatriates.

The Piano Teacher is a compelling story; at once raw, cutting and beautiful. It unfolds slowly — characters and plot are selectively revealed, without judgment. Yet they remain fascinating and persuasive. The concealment and layering mirrors how carefully we choose to reveal ourselves to others — especially when survival is on the line. And Lee deftly raises the question: Can others' perceptions of ourselves affect who we really are at our core?

Katherine at A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore wasn't quite as positive about The Piano Teacher, though her conclusion isn't too bad: "[The] writing is beautiful, the research is superb, and the setting is fantastic. I just wish that Lee had done more with her characters, because they had so much promise."

Has anyone read this book (which just came out)? Sounds like a good read – please weigh in!

UPDATE: The Washington Post Book World reviewed this book on 1/18 here.

4 Comments

  • January 17, 2009 - 6:36 am | Permalink

    I liked it. It had a different feel to it than the usual novel of that era. The writing is spare but good – that appealed to me. It gave me a sense of the place, people (Brits in Hong Kong) and attitudes both pre-War and post. Different but worth reading.

  • January 18, 2009 - 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I just read about the Piano Teacher in todays NY Times Book Review. I’ve added it to be reserves list at the library. Thanks for posting about it.

  • January 19, 2009 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    I left you a award on my blog.
    Check it out.

  • June 9, 2009 - 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this book. The two love stories intertwine primarily as a way to tell the first love story. The writing is beautiful and I thought that most of the characters were very well written. I recommend it, particularly to those who enjoy historical fiction.

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