This book instantly captivated me. It completely immersed me in the unfamiliar world of 17th-century China. The writing was so beautiful I often slowed my reading to savor it, but at the same time, the story was so compelling I wanted to turn pages faster.
I fell in love with Lisa See's heroine, the good-hearted, headstrong and emotional Peony, and eagerly journeyed with her through her life and afterlife. Along the way I pondered the novel's many themes: the nature of true love, the miscommunications that keep people from understanding one another, the joys of reading and writing, and what it means to be truly human.
This was a stunning, beautiful work, one that I will treasure and read again and again.
Historical fiction book cum ghost story set just after the fall of the Ming Dynasty in China. It's the story of Peony, a teenage girl who is obsessed by a book that was made into an opera called The Peony Pavilion that was popular at the time in China. The book/opera is the story of a star-crossed young couple where the young girl dies and visits her love in a dream and he eventually brings her back to life from her ghost world. Peony becomes lovesick when she meets a young man the night of her sixteenth birthday when her father hosts a production of the opera at their home. Although she is betrothed to another, she schemes ways to get out of that arranged marriage and marry her mystery poet. She stops eating and literally becomes deathly ill, thinking that if she dies, her beloved, like the character in the opera, will bring her back to life and they'll live happily ever after. I really wasn't sure I'd like this book--it's not 'my kind' of book but I received an ARC of it to review for Random House. I love historical fiction, but I'm not much into chick lit, love stories/romance and all that, but this book was much more than that. It was an excellent STORY, and it had elements from many different genres--paranormal, historical, fantasy, women's literature, etc. but most of all the author's captivating writing style kept me reading til the end. I enjoyed the foray into the beliefs about death/ancestors/afterlife from that time period in China--something I had not read much about before. The ending, by the way, I thought a bit sappy and I was disappointed with it, but overall I'd say it's another great book for this author.
Lisa See has a writing style that quickly allows the reader to become absorbed in the book. This style makes Peony in Love an engaging and fairly easy read, even if the reader has never read The Peony Pavilion, which is the Chinese opera that inspired See's novel.
Peony in Love is broken into three sections, the first of which is fairly slow going. It is obvious from the first section that the story is going to mirror The Peony Pavilion in that it will be a love story, but a love story that crosses both the mortal and immortal worlds. Even though the storyline is obvious, See manages to keep the plot moving in a way that leaves the reader with the desire to finish the story. However, there isn't the emotional engagement with the characters that is present in some of her other works, like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
The other two sections of the book move in a fairly predictable direction, with a few unexpected twists and turns. Without giving away the end of the story, the rest of the book tells a common coming of age story in an uncommon way. Thoroughly researched Chinese culture and history is weaved throughout the tale in a way that makes the reader understand the full implications of being a woman in 17th Century China. The book is dramatic and tragic, yet there is a feeling of optimism that can't be ignored.
See clearly does a significant amount of research into the controversy that the The Peony Pavilion caused throughout Chinese history, which gives the book a depth that contributes to its charm. However, the plot itself is less enchanting, which ultimately makes Peony in Love a good, but not great book.
I quite enjoyed this story, more so than "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan". The love story, the poetry and the cultural details -- funeral and wedding rituals, various celebrations -- were all fascinating. Recommended.
This was a hard one for me. I was enjoying it until about a third of the way through. You see, I didn't actually READ the description, so what happened - well, I wasn't expecting it and it made me so MAD. I literally slammed this book shut and stalked off. I felt cheated. In some ways, I think I still do. BUT the book is really very good. I learned a lot about Chinese culture and beliefs. I've always been drawn to "things" that are Chinese (I one day want to redo my living room with that influence, if I can talk the husband into it!). And while the historical fiction like this is not something I would have read before, I am really starting to enjoy some of it. The key for me is there has to be a good story to drag me in. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan didn't disappoint and this one, in the end, didn't either. A good read.