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Peony in Love [Paperback]

Lisa See
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
RRP: £10.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2007
Peony is the cherished only child of the first wife of a wealthy Chinese nobleman. Yet she is betrothed to a man she has never met and as her sixteenth birthday approaches, she has spoken to no man other than her father and never ventured outside the cloistered women's quarters of the Chen Family Villa. She is trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage and the romantic lyrics from the Chinese classic novel The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own. Her father engages a small theatrical troupe to perform scenes from the epic opera of The Peony Pavilion - a live spectacle that few women have ever seen - in their garden amidst the scent of ginger, green tea and jasmine. Peony's mother is against the production: "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public." But Peony's father prevails. Women will watch the opera from behind a screen to hide them from view and through a crack, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave and is immediately bewitched by him. So begins Peony's journey of love, desire and sorrow as Lisa See's haunting new novel takes readers back to seventeenth-century China and into the heart and soul of an unforgettable heroine.

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Peony in Love + Snow Flower and the Secret Fan + Dreams of Joy
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747582483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747582489
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,257,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`The story takes the reader on a bewitching journey between worlds' -- Financial Times

`Those who adored See's sublime Snow Flower and the Secret Fan will be delighted by this sensuous and imaginative bringing-to-life of Chinese history' -- Kate Saunders, The Times

`Those wishing to carry out a modern-day foot-binding could do worse than invest in this operatic Chinese romance, which exhaustively details the bone-splintering agonies ... fascinating ... the real delight lies in See's exhaustive research into the period'
-- Observer

About the Author

Lisa See is the author of the best-selling Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net, The Interior and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Amanda Richards VINE VOICE
The old theme of star-crossed lovers takes an Oriental twist in this historical period drama about a love-struck young girl, an enamored poet, and the opera that not only brings them together but casts them apart.

This story is about Peony, a young woman and only child of a wealthy family. Set in seventeenth century China, when well brought up young women weren't allowed to be seen or heard, especially by strange men, Peony's father organizes a theatrical performance of the opera "The Peony Pavilion", and although her mother doesn't want her to see it, arrangements are made for a screen to be erected, behind which the women can get a glimpse of the epic opera. Peony is a big fan of "The Peony Pavilion", having collected many editions, reading and memorizing many of the popular segments, but even though seeing it live is a big thrill, she becomes more interested in observing a young man sitting in the audience.

Risking her reputation, she wanders off on her own, and as fate would have it, she encounters the young man in an isolated place, where they discover that they enjoy each other's company very much. Unfortunately, Peony is already betrothed by way of an arranged marriage, and as the big day approaches she spends her days dreaming of the young man and obsessively recording her thoughts in an edition of the great opera, refusing food and ignoring the advice of the doctors and other experts that come to see her. From this point her life takes a dramatic turn with a cruel twist, and the story and the opera fuse together in elaborate fashion, becoming a dark fantasy full of ghosts, superstition and tradition.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snowflower crossed with The Lovely Bones 2 July 2007
By Zarla
I loved Snowflower and the Secret Fan so much I didn't think Lisa See could equal it, but with Peony in Love she does. At first I thought it would be about Snowflower's daughter Peony from the first novel, but it's actually set even further back in time, in 17th century China. Foot-binding is still a major theme, though not described in such terrifying detail this time round.Chinese Renaissance opera and a woman's right to write are new themes. The novel, in a faintly satirical but wholly compelling way, also focuses on the complex rituals associated with the afterworld in Chinese mythology. Peony's first person narration and all the sumptuous detail of sights, sounds and smells keep the novel

fresh and modern.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get pass Chapter I and it's fantastic from there 19 Mar 2009
By Doogie
I read this book as I loved 'Snow flower and the secret fan'. At first I was disappointed as I found chapter I not interesting at all, but I stuck with it and am glad I did. After the first chapter the book starts to become compelling to find out the next turn in Peony's life. I have ready a few Chinese novels (The last empress, the secrets of Jin-Shei etc) and each one has shown a different side to the Chinese traditions and this one is no exception, love, death, honour, rituals and mainly the after world.
A wonderful read and another source of information into another beautiful culture
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I'd expected 29 Sep 2008
This is a really difficult book to review because it wasn't at all what I'd expected. The first third ran more or less true to form, following Peony as she prepares to turn 16 and leave her natal home to join a husband that she has never met. To commemorate a significant festival her father arranges a production of the epic opera The Peony Pavilion; an opera that Peony has read many times but never seen. Without giving too much away, this part of the book left me feeling frustrated and sad and although the book comes to a satisfying ending, it is not a cheerful tale.
From here on we are in the realms of the dead, interesting from the point of view of Chinese beliefs about the afterlife, but otherwise rather slow. Whilst I enjoyed Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and A Place Called Here by Celia Ahern, Ms See's take on the afterworld did not enthrall me. The commentary on the opera and on Peony and her 'sister-wives' views on love and marriage were also hard going.
This book was based on historical fact but where it veered into the realms of imagination, for me, it veered a bit too far.
Worth a read but not a book I'd recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting 31 Aug 2008
By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Not quite sure why I was interested in this book as it is set in 17th century China, a country about which I know very little, and about whose traditions I am totally ignorant. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition with the Olympic Games being in China, and the mention of an opera at the start of this story that made me feel I might have a crack at this. And how glad I am I did as I was totally beguiled by this simply lovely book.

Peony hears a performance of an opera, the Peony Pavilion, performed on her fifteenth birthday, She has always lived in the cloistered women's quarters of her family villa and while the men can watch this opera freely, the women are hidden behind screens. Peony is to marry a man she has never seen but she yearns to feel love as the heroine in this opera with whom she feels an affinity. During the performance she slips away into garden and there meets an elegant, handsome man with whom she becomes bewitched. He is also betrothed and though they fall in love immediately, they know they can never be together.

After her birthday Peony begins to study the opera even more closely and identifies with the doomed Liniang who dies of love and in her second life undertakes a ghost marriage with the man she has left behind on her death. Peony becomes obsessed with this idea and gradually stops eating, she becomes ill and weaker and weaker and dies. Only after her death does she find out that the man she met during the opera and with whom she fell in love, was her betrothed husband. She has died for nothing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice read
The book was good and a very different style but without giving anything away it was a bit slow and muddling in places. I did enjoy the story and the setting. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Jen
4.0 out of 5 stars I am very pleased with the guarantor they will be fine for me ...
I am very pleased with the guarantor they will be fine for me to do it for a few days ago by the way to get the best way to get the best way to get the best way to get the best way
Published 14 days ago by 7D2
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely
This is a really sweet read. It took me right back to my teenage years of fantasy and love combined with an education on Chinese culture.
Published 23 days ago by Waz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it
Published 2 months ago by June England
5.0 out of 5 stars Peony in Love
Excellent book. Exactly as described. Very sad but true. I have no more to write on this particular book. So
Published 4 months ago by Ms. Wendy West
3.0 out of 5 stars Suspend disbelief
I hope that this is not a spoiler, but it is rather strange to read a story, 75% of who characters is narrated by a ghost. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Elizabeth
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!!
What a beautiful, well-written and mesmerising read. The only time I put it down was to look up online things that intrigued me regarding Chinese culture from the book.
Published 8 months ago by Louise_Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual book, but defiantly worth reading.
Unusual writing style, is written like no other book that I have read before. I re-read it after I had finished it just to make sure that I had understood it all. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars very thought provoking
For me this was a very thought provoking and disturbing read. It highlights a part of the female soul which has been persuaded that to be feminine we must be demure, restful and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by A Moore
3.0 out of 5 stars ok
Good story but too much waffle with the whole moping around after an opera character. First part was good but it lost focus
Published 9 months ago by Dimples
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