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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love is of source unknown, yet it grows ever deeper
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...
Published on 18 Aug 2007 by Amanda Richards

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I'd expected
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...
Published on 29 Sep 2008 by DubaiReader


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love is of source unknown, yet it grows ever deeper, 18 Aug 2007
By 
Amanda Richards "Hotpurplekoolaid" (ECD, Guyana) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Peony in Love (Hardcover)
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.

The author lingers over the historical details, the proud traditions, the poetry of the opera and the protocols of the afterlife, as well as other remarkable activities such as foot binding and embroidery, and although this is an extremely poignant and melancholy book, it is so rich in description that you won't want to put it down. A dramatic, absorbing and informative story that will remain with you for a long time after you've finished reading it.

Amanda Richards
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snowflower crossed with The Lovely Bones, 2 July 2007
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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2 of 2 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 (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
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
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
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 Peony is a good read, but definitely not a romance, 28 Jan 2012
By 
Lauren K. (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
Peony In Love was a really good book, very well written and filled with the all of the drama, conflict, and beautiful prose you would expect from a novel by Lisa See. I read Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy before this one, and it was interesting to recall some of the reviews I read before I purchased the aforementioned books. So many people thought Peony was See's best book, and that Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy fell short.

This book is listed as a romance, but I would beg to differ. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the main character does perish in the beginning of the book, and spends the rest of book as a ghost who watches over the man she loved in life. There are some moments, such as the description of foot binding: the process, the smells, the painful agony of the practice, and the erotic pleasure men received from it, that I wish I never read. See details them so well that the idea of it all kept me up at night, making me feel sick.

The story itself is very solid, and if you're not squeamish and don't mind the heaviness of literary fiction, then by all means you should pick it up. It is rich with history, and as I mentioned before, fine prose.

Liz R. Newman, Author of An Affinity for Shadows
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars peony in love, 26 Jan 2009
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written book that once I started reading could not put down. Whilst the story did not go in the direction I expected i absolutely loved it. Read it with an open mind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Innocent Look at Love, 17 Jan 2009
By 
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
I loved the innocence of this book, of seeing love through the eyes of Peony, who fell in love and never truely got to experience it. If you are a romantic I highly recommend this read. I found this book truely enchanting and magical.
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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 (Colchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
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.

In the aftermath of her death, her ancestral tablet is put to one side and the ritual which would allow her soul to pass into the next life, is incomplete and she is condemned to an eternity on the Viewing Pavilion watching her family, her life which she threw away and also her lost husband, Ren. Difficult to describe from this point on just how fascinating and beautiful the rest of this story is but I will try.

Ren marries several years later, to Ze, a cousin of Peony who had been jealous of her and who is eager to take her place and her husband. As a 'hungry ghost', one who has no home and no place to rest, Peony resides in the home of Ren and becomes a 'sister wife' to Ze who is aware that her spirit is abroad. Using the full force of her will Peony turns her from an unpleasant, jealous woman to a good wife to Ren, all the time longing for her ghost marriage with Ren which will bring her happiness in her after life.

Peony meets her grandmother in the Viewing Pavilion and, later, her mother who have dreadful tales to tell of their rape and suffering at the hands of the Manchu during the Cataclysm. Peony realises that she knew nothing about her parent and understood them even less when she was alive. It is only after her death that she is able to mature and grow into a wise and loving woman.

Sounds odd to say that there is a happy ending bearing in mind the circumstances of the story, but there is one and I found it quite moving. The rituals and customs of the living and the dead are portrayed beautifully and there is a delicacy and grace in their description. While reading this book, I found myself feeling very peaceful and almost physically light, very difficult to put this emotion into words, there was just a feeling of beauty and orderliness and rightness about each and every action.

"... they put me in padded undergarments so I might be warm in winter, and then they slipped my limbs into the silk gowns and satin tunics that had been made for my dowry....for my outer layer I wore a padded silk jacket with sleeves embroidered in an elaborate and very colourful kingfisher pattern...Mama placed a sliver of jade in my mouth to safeguard my body. Second Aunt tucked coins and rice in my pockets so I might sooth the rabid dogs I'd meet on the way to the after world. Third Aunt covered my face with a thin piece of white silk. Fourth Aunt tied coloured string around my waist to prevent me from carrying away any of our family's children and around my feet to restrain my body from leaping about should I be tormented by evil spirits on my journey"

A elegant, satisfying book. Please do read it if you can.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peony in Love, 28 July 2008
By 
This review is from: Peony in Love (Paperback)
I bought this book based on that I had read "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" which was intriguing to say the least.

I find all the culture and traditions so compelling, and "Peony in Love" delves deeper into these subjects keeping the spiritual and living world parallel as you read, allowing you to experience Peony's life from all aspects.

To tell you the truth.... I very nearly gave up on this book. As I completed Part I, I couldn't bear to start Part II. I was livid!!
I slammed it down on my bedside table, and ignored it for a few hours. But after I explained to a friend about Part I, she encouraged me to pick it back up and continue. I am very pleased I did..... it was fantastic.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Suspend disbelief, 23 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Peony in Love (Kindle Edition)
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. However I found that, after a while, I bought into the concept & stopped noticing, this is, after all, a work of fiction.
Like "Snowflower & the Secret Fan", the other book by this author which I have read, she clearly has a great interest in Chinese history & the position occupied by women. Some details are shocking, she does not shrink from descriptions of foot binding, for example, which, as a modern Western woman I find hard to accept as any act empowering women, but I suppose that the ancient Chinese women clung to the concept as some still do to female genital mutilation as a cultural necessity. However I did find the story interesting & entertaining & it gave me an insight to a place & time of which I knew little.
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Peony in Love
Peony in Love by Lisa See (Paperback - 7 July 2008)
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