Book Review ~ The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

Summary ~ The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. 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, 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 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 colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair, only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past.

As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges—between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and, above all, the past.

A Novel

Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher was not what I expected.  Not in way of the story but in how I wished to love it from beginning to end.  The first sixty pages or so were slow, unable to grasp my attention for more than a few moments at a time and were full of characters that I couldn’t become emotionally invested in.  Then the arrival of WWII and all that came with it turned the great city of Hong Kong and it’s civilians upside down and with those events a new book emerged to me.  A book full of mystery, deception, love, risk, and horrific descriptions of how brutal war can be. 

The Piano Teacher is the story of a young British woman named Claire, fresh off the boat in Hong Kong and fresh into a world she didn’t know existed.  She is married to Martin, an older Englishman who concerns himself with work at the Waterworks plant and not with the events that soon fill up his wife’s days.  Claire surprises herself by taking up a position with a Chinese family as their young daughter’s piano teacher.  The affiliation with the Chen’s opens a new world to Claire, full of party invitations, a whole new circle of people and an introduction to Will, the man who will sweep her off her feet and change her life forever.  Will has a story to tell but he doesn’t share details easily.  The first part of The Piano Teacher flips between 1952 and Claire’s torrid affair with Will and ten years prior, telling the stories of Will before WWII and the love of his life, Trudy.    

The Piano Teacher is a rich, disturbing and refreshing look at WWII.  It shows the reader the horrors that more than likely occurred on the other side of the world.  Living in Okinawa, I am familiar with the history of the Japanese invasion of this little island.  In The Piano Teacher you read of the Japanese invasion of another small area of the Orient.  If you are a fan of the 1987 film, Empire of the Sun, this may be the book for you.  Empire of the Sun is one of my all time favorite films based on the autobiographical novel by J. G. Ballard which tells the story of a young boy who is separated from his family when Japanese Forces invade Shanghai and he is sent to a work camp where he survives the war. 

If you have the patience to get through the first few chapters of The Piano Teacher, and maybe you will love it right from the start, this book is worth the time investment.  The characters become vivid and the story builds and builds as the war escalates and reaches the corners of the globe. 

{Rating ~ 3.75 out of 5}

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10 thoughts on “Book Review ~ The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

  1. I loved Empire of the Sun so maybe this would be a good read for me. Thanks for the comparison. Gives me a good frame of reference to go on.

  2. It sounds pretty good but I’m not sure I’d have the patience to get through the beginning. I’m pretty bad about going back to a book that doesn’t grab me right away.

  3. While I respect the first reviewer’s point of view, I was fascinated from the first chapter with this book’s unusual story. I agree that the characters aren’t very easy to like or even to understand, but this was probably the author’s intention in creating the mood of the culture and mistrust of the World War II era in Hong Kong. I would have wanted to read the book for its beautiful cover photo alone, but found the story reminiscent of my mother’s memories of society during “the war years.” Wit over substance was a coping mechanism in a world turned upside down. I’m glad I read this book, though for its story and atmosphere more than the characters who inhabit it. I look forward to future works by this author.

  4. While I appreciate the positive reviews of this book, I did not remain interested throughout. Maybe it was my lack of interest in history or my wandering mind, at times, while reading, but I just didn’t enjoy it. Too much jumping around as in The Time Travelers Wife… I don’t like having to look at the date to figure out where that chapter fits into the story.

  5. I adored the story, it had a rich and appealing opening and had a productive ending. The book’s content was about two different stories happening at Hong Kong during different periods. One was before WWII talking about Trudy and Will’s love and betrayal; and the other one was about a love affair between Will and young Claire. It was astounding how the writer could write each chapter going back and forth in time; great techniques used. This book was mind- blowing, highly recommended.

  6. Первоклассные элитные проститутки и индивидуалки нашего города и предоставление эскорта, секс знакомств. На сайте можно снять проститутку или даже пару индивидуалок на любой вкус, а также подобрать комфортабельные апартаменты, чтобы получить удовольствие от интим услуг. Хотите шикарно расслабиться и развеяться с друзьями в сауне, и заказать проституток, чтобы Ваш досуг был незабываемый? А может, Вы не имеете желания никуда выезжать, оказываете предпочтение заказать элитную проститутку к себе домой? Весь список интимных услуг, а также самые транссексуалы Москвы обаятельные и сексуальные проститутки и трансексуалы – лишь у нас на сайте. Здесь есть все, чтобы Ваши эротические желания были удовлетворенные, а Ваша сексуальная жизнь была разносторонняя и интересна. Снимите индивидуалку, элитную проститутку, транса с нашего сайта – и Вы будете довольны, и несомненно пожалуете на него еще не раз.

  7. В отличие от родимой державы в Германии проституция абсолютно легальна. точно оно либо нет не мне решать.
    все-таки мне повезло оказаться в единственный из борделей. случилось это в Кельне, в час вояжа по Европе. на первых порах я был буквально удивлен, мол как просто зайти в бордель, проплатить капусту, и заняться любовью. Для себя сие нечто вроде полета на луну. Однако уже в самом борделе я понял что к чему, мол в этом месте относятся не иначе как к клиенту, а не так как блудницы Москвы. целиком направлено на это ради того потребитель выбросил чертовски много денег,сайт проституток однако и интим услуги там идеальные. Кто приедет в Германию придите в местный публичный дом.

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