Reviews for Piano Teacher

Booklist Reviews 2008 December #1
It is 1952 and the British government has just transferred newly married Martin Pendleton to Hong Kong with his young, naive bride, Claire. Looking to keep herself busy while her husband is working, Claire takes a job as a piano teacher to Locket Chen, the daughter of an upperclass Chinese family. Bored by her husband and surprised by her own desire for something exciting, Claire is lured by the colony s exotic ways and lavish lifestyle. She begins an affair with the mysterious Will Truesdale, the Chen s chauffer, whose tragic past is marked by war, betrayal, and a deep, passionate relationship with a beautiful, Eurasian socialite, Trudy Liang. When Will s past collides with Claire s present, Claire can only watch, stunned, as her delicately orchestrated life falls apart. Lee s debut novel shifts back and forth between Claire s story in 1952 and Will s past in 1942 s war-torn Hong Kong. Lee has created the sort of interesting, complex characters, especially in Trudy, that drive a rich and intimate look at what happens to people under extraordinary circumstances. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 October #1
A historical and romantic narrative, alternating between the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II and a time roughly ten years later that follows the tragic consequences of that occupation.The central figure is Will Truesdale, who across this ten-year period is involved with two vastly different women. In 1952 he meets Claire Pendleton, the piano teacher of the title, who's come to Hong Kong with her dull and unimaginative husband, a civil engineer overseeing the building of a reservoir. Claire finds a position teaching Locket Chen, the ten-year-old daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, the latter a successful and Anglophilic businessman with a dark past. Will is the Chens' chauffeur, an anomalous position for a Westerner, but Victor well knows that having Will in this position elevates Victor's status in the Chinese community. Lee presents her narrative antiphonally, so the story frequently flashes back to Will's other lover, the beautiful Eurasian Trudy Liang, daughter of a Chinese father and a Portuguese beauty. Trudy is impulsive, pragmatic and strong--she's willing to do anything to guarantee that her relationship with Will survives the dire and dangerous time when the Japanese take over the government of Hong Kong. She submits herself to the will of the powerful Otsubo, who serves practically as a warlord. He's trying to recover a mysterious cache of priceless Chinese artifacts and is willing to engage in any activity--including torture and murder--to get what he wants. Only three people know the whereabouts of the trove, and this knowledge gives them power while at the same time putting them in danger. Despite Will's warning to Claire (" ‘I don't like to love…You should be forewarned. I don't believe in it' "), the piano teacher is sucked into the maelstrom of his passion--and learns more than she expected to about the human implications of the dark events of the war.A lush examination of East-West relations. Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2008 October #1

In 1952 Hong Kong, Claire Pendleton, newly married to a bland postwar British government official, lucks into a job as piano teacher to the untalented young daughter of the powerful and wealthy Victor and Melody Chen. It's not long before she enters into a passionate, albeit emotionally thwarted affair with the Chens' driver, Will Truesdale. Lee then takes her readers back to 1941 Hong Kong, where Will's fiery love affair with the mysterious, fearless, provocative Trudy Liang (her mother was Portuguese, her father from Shanghai) dominates the run-up to disaster. In her fiction debut, Lee uses the snobbish insulation of British high society in Hong Kong to show the unraveling of a way of life that implodes with the invasion of the Japanese during World War II. Thrust from privilege into imprisonment virtually overnight, Lee's characters are caught up in the intrigue and collusion that were part of wartime survival. Her adept pacing slowly exposes the inevitability of tragedy that engulfs her characters. Highly recommended.--Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 September #2

Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances. (Jan.)

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