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Publisher's Summary

"I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret."

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.

Critic Reviews

"Peony's vibrant voice, perfectly pitched between the novel's historical and passionate depths, carries her story beautifully." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
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    174
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    127
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    103
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    37
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    33

Performance

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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    128
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    56
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    33
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    8
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    8

Story

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    115
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    41
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    48
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    11
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Wonderful

I love this book. I've listened too it many times and I am well entertained each time.

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Different and enjoyable

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.

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Dragged a little, but got better

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.

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Interesting

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!

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Intriguing and Creative Story!

Would you listen to Peony in Love again? Why?

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!

What did you like best about this story?

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.

What does Janet Song bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I felt that she brought the book to life, and really enjoyed listening to her.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The description of the scenery in the gardens and the isolation.

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Intolerable vocals

What disappointed you about Peony in Love?

Lisa See is pretty much my favorite author thus summer. I bought this book and truly could not listen to the narrator. Sorry.

What other book might you compare Peony in Love to and why?

All of Lisa's books are engaging.,. if you enjoy historical fiction.

How could the performance have been better?

Her voice was heavy and breathy.

What character would you cut from Peony in Love?

Oh, none!

Any additional comments?

Sorry to be harsh. But it was bad narration.

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Excellent Cultural Lessons!

What did you love best about Peony in Love?

The strength of the women of this ancient culture and their abilities to endure with grace.

Who was your favorite character and why?

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.

What does Janet Song bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

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.

If you could take any character from Peony in Love out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Peony's BaBa to find out why he allowed his daughter to stop eating and follow into the ways of the Peony Pavillion.

Any additional comments?

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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  • Cellee
  • Mechanicsburg, PA, United States
  • 06-18-12

The Lives of Women

Would you listen to Peony in Love again? Why?

This book is a beautiful story of a "lovesick" young women in Japan during the 16th and 17th Century. How women while under much stress from a lifestyle chosen for them they were able to become published poets and writers. I would recommend this book to all teenage girls to inspire them to learn from history and to be thankful for all that life as given them through the strides of the women before them.<br/><br/>This is a very peaceful book filled with hope for a better life.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Peony's Grandmother and Mother.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scenes in the Garden prior to The Peony Pavilion.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This book caused me to think about my life and the life beyond. The ideas and teachings of the Japanese regarding the life beyond causes one to reflect on how one is living today.

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  • kathleen
  • Estill Springs, TN, United States
  • 04-18-12

Saddened by story, fascinated by culture

Is there anything you would change about this book?

What was most disappointing about Lisa See’s story?

I recognize that this is a personal distaste, and maybe it's because I want things to "work out", but I can't stand the plot-line of missed connections! "If only...." and things like that. But, it is a crucial part of the plot so it can't really be changed.

Was Peony in Love worth the listening time?

I...actually stopped listening after a certain point in the story. I put it away and didn't pick it up again for a long time. Once I did though, I was absolutely fascinated by Chinese death rituals and beliefs surrounding the afterlife. I ostensibly picked this book because I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and LOVED it so I was looking forward to another great book by Lisa See. I found myself unable to get invested in the story after a certain point, I was just so turned off. But then I found out I was going to go live in Hong Kong for a year, so I decided to give it another try. Learning about Chinese culture through this book was the best part about it for me--the story, eh. For me, not so much.

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Not what I expected...

I've recently discovered Lisa See and her works and have been very pleased! This book was very different to the others. It's my fault for not reading the synopsis. I was not expecting it to be so "ghostly". I liked it...not as much as her other works but I liked it. I'd recommend her other books before this one.