Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Piano Teacher by Janice.Y.K. Lee
The Piano Teacher takes place in Hong Kong, going back and forth between the Second World War and the Japanese occupation and the 1950s and British rule. The part set during the war tells the story of Will, a young Brit who ends up in Hong Kong right before war erupts. There he meets Trudy, a Eurasian beauty with a dynamite character and a survival instinct. Their story is one of wartime reality that I hope neither I nor my children ever have to experience.
The part set in the 1950s is about Claire, an English woman who follows her husband to Hong Kong and who ends up finding herself there. She meets Will too and becomes parts of the post-war relationships and vendettas that form in the community there.
I think part of the reason I liked this book so much is that I've never read anything set in Hong Kong and certainly didn't know anything about what happened there during the war. I found that side of it fascinating, the Japanese occupation and the Westerners living in Hong Kong during that time simply never entered my thoughts before. There is so much fascinating history there.
But aside from that, I thought that the author did a great job describing the realities of war - how some people change and how some just show their true colors. The fact that we're all the same no matter what time period we belong to is so apparent, it seems so simple.
My edition had a short interview with the author at the end and I found that really interesting. Lee is Korean but grew up in Hong Kong so she has a different perspective on the place. My favorite part of the interview was when she said that the book took her 5 years to write and by the time it was finished she had 4 kids! How you can write something so good with 4 kids in the house is beyond me. I'm impressed! :-)
Challenges: Orbis Terrarum, 2010 Countdown Challenge, What's in a Name 3