For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.
Peony's mother is against her daughter's attending the production: "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public". But Peony's father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave and is immediately overcome with emotion.
So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow as Lisa See's haunting novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to 17th-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.
Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place, and even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one's soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth.
Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See's new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.
©2007 Lisa See; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Peony's vibrant voice, perfectly pitched between the novel's historical and passionate depths, carries her story beautifully." (Publishers Weekly)
I am writing my thoughts about the book that left a great impression on me and I know my words will be read by others. I owe the freedom to do so to my sisters from the 17th Century China, and especially to the three wives of a poet, to the three courageous souls who wrote and published the first ever book by women.
“Peony in Love” is a story of WOMEN as they were before feminism stepped in. They were wives and mothers and lovers and poets; devoted to their husbands and called to serve them above all; educated for the sake of holding an intelligent conversation and being “mates” to their men and mothers in law. It is a story of a young girl’s quest for love and freedom of sharing her word with others. Young Peony dies when waiting for an arranged marriage, writing down the commentary of her beloved book, “The Peony Pavilion”. Upon death, she becomes a “hungry ghost” tortured with love, unable to proceed to the after-world due to the un-dotted tablet, eager to make her poet Wu Ren happy and fulfilled with the best wife that she tries and succeeds, after all, to “create” and guide for him. And Peony is also so eager to finish her work, her commentary, in hopes that Wu Ren hears her through the words, written by her at the age of 16, and later finished by his two other wives.
To not retell the story, masterfully woven by Lisa See in delicate word-brushes of pink and purple and yellow words, just like the most delicate Chinese silk and other books by this outstanding writer, I say that this book is much more than a tale of love. It is a story of growing as a woman and growing as a generation of women; a story of devotion to your man and a story about the importance of all types of love: romantic, sexual, soul to soul connection, mother love, daughter love; the story of strong women who seem to be so fragile and peony-like, swaying on their lily-feet. The story that one does need all bravery to do what her heart tells her do, and the story of a brave and pure heart.
I agree with the last reviewer. The story had much potential, but at this point I need another 3 hours (total about 12), and I know the only thing that keeps me listening is waiting for the story to get to the point. The author could have pulled this off in about half the time. I don't know that I can continue.
I am sorry to have to say this, but this book was so disappointing. I loved her first book and couldn't even finish this one. It was very slow and very boring. I would not recommend this book. Hopefully, Lisa See will come back with something better like her first book.
I don't think I can ever not like a book by Lisa See. This I read after snow flower and the secret fan. I then saw Peony, and amazed by that this was a sequel. Wow, very hauntingly beautiful and perfect smooth way of explaining the Chinese beliefs. The darkest of her novels and most culturally revealing of the ancient foot binding and ghost weddings.
I didn't like this one as much as others by the author. I stopped listening for a bit, but more because of the story itself than the writing. When I got back into it, I was captivated as the story went on. It really is an amazing story and the development of the main character masterful. Understanding from the author at the end the basis for the story really made it a worthy listen.
This book was a very interesting fictional account of the largely unknown Chinese women writers who flourished in the Yang See River Valley in the 17th century. I am a fan of Chinese cultural stories so did enjoy it. The reader is excellent!
Yes, I liked the readers voice and felt connected to the story through her words. This often makes me like a book more or less and I think she was a perfect fit for the role!
I thought it was really creative how she delved into history and created an imaginative story that is based on some events. I enjoyed the research that she did into the time period and found myself researching more about the history.
I felt that she brought the book to life, and really enjoyed listening to her.
The description of the scenery in the gardens and the isolation.
Lisa See is pretty much my favorite author thus summer. I bought this book and truly could not listen to the narrator. Sorry.
All of Lisa's books are engaging.,. if you enjoy historical fiction.
Her voice was heavy and breathy.
Sorry to be harsh. But it was bad narration.
The strength of the women of this ancient culture and their abilities to endure with grace.
Peony because she was very intelligent, a loving person, an excellent example of her culture's expectations and at the same time willing to look farther.
Her voice is the perfect vehicle to transport you through the lives and culture of this story. I own both and thoroughly understand the story deeper with Janet Song's excellent delivery of the story.
Peony's BaBa to find out why he allowed his daughter to stop eating and follow into the ways of the Peony Pavillion.
I continue to learn so much of the ways of an ancient culture and I have deep respect for the difficulties the women endured and the dignity by which they carried themselves under the harshest of expectations.
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