Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee ***

So many books have been written on the moral compromises of World War II in Europe, the suffering, the courage, and the atrocities. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee, explores these issues on the other side of the world: Hong Kong.

The stories are told from the point-of-view of two women. During the war we follow Trudy Liang, a Eurasian (Chinese and Portugese) who attempts to survive separate from the conflict being neither Japanese nor British/American. After the war, we follow Claire Pendleton who has moved to Hong Kong, along with her husband's job, and also wishes to survive separate from Hong Kong. In their own time and place, each woman addresses the moral conflicts she encounters.

Spanning the time spans and playing important roles in both threads are a powerful Chinese family: Victor and Melody Chen, and the fascinating bachelor: Will Truesdale. Just to add another twist, Melody, Trudy, and the resourceful Dominick are all cousins.

The book is fascinating on two levels. First is the history of Hong Kong before, during, and after the war. Second is the different ways the characters deal with the issues of survival and morality, loyalty and friendship, under extraordinary circumstances. A great choice for the historical novel fan.

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