Monday, May 4, 2009
The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y. K. Lee
Among the highlights of Lee’s debut novel are the two periods the story is told within—early 1950s and the onset of Japan’s occupation in the 1940s—and the wonderful setting of Hong Kong. It is as much a love story as a mystery, a tale of race and class issues, culture divides, loss, betrayal, regret and finding oneself amid the languishing shadows of world war. It brought to mind two other works: the recent film by Ang Lee, “Lust, Caution,” which takes place in Shanghai but has similar themes; and John Lanchester’s book, FRAGRANT HARBOR, which occurs in Hong Kong and has a story that parallels THE PIANO TEACHER. As the story developed, the plot grew complex and advanced to a degree of urgency against the background of war that by the second half I couldn’t put this book down.