Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Peony in Love by Lisa See

I've been out of town for my brother's wedding so I'm a bit behind on my blog and reading list. I actually finished Peony in Love last week.

This book was set in 17th century China and told the story of Peony, a girl obsessed with the Peony Pavilion opera and with the chance to have a say in her own destiny. SPOILERS - Peony falls in love with a young man see meets in her father's garden. Her mother suspects something and locks her in her room. Peony becomes obsessed with writing commentary about the opera as well as poems, stops eating and slowly wastes away and dies. She spends the next two-thirds of the book as a ghost watching her one true love.

While it was interesting to read about the Chinese beliefs about death and the afterworld, I thought it took away from the novel to have the heroine dead. It was sad that it was the only way she could control her life, but several key plot points that I think were supposed to be surprises I had figured out right away. I liked the last chapter that explained the history in the book a lot, maybe that should have been a foreword.

Peony in Love is actually the second book I've read this year by Lisa See. The other novel was Snowflower and the Secret Fan. I vastly preferred Snowflower and the Secret Fan as reading about two best-friends and their relationship was much preferable to reading about a ghost. Alice Sebold was able to make the ghost narrator work in The Lovely Bones, but it didn't work as well as it could of in this book. I recommend reading Snowflower and the Secret Fan rather than Peony in Love.

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