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The Piano Teacher

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About the Author

Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong and graduated from Harvard College. A former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines, she currently lives in Hong Kong with her husband and children.


Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

In 1952 Hong Kong, Claire Pendleton, newly married to a bland postwar British government official, lucks into a job as piano teacher to the untalented young daughter of the powerful and wealthy Victor and Melody Chen. It's not long before she enters into a passionate, albeit emotionally thwarted affair with the Chens' driver, Will Truesdale. Lee then takes her readers back to 1941 Hong Kong, where Will's fiery love affair with the mysterious, fearless, provocative Trudy Liang (her mother was Portuguese, her father from Shanghai) dominates the run-up to disaster. In her fiction debut, Lee uses the snobbish insulation of British high society in Hong Kong to show the unraveling of a way of life that implodes with the invasion of the Japanese during World War II. Thrust from privilege into imprisonment virtually overnight, Lee's characters are caught up in the intrigue and collusion that were part of wartime survival. Her adept pacing slowly exposes the inevitability of tragedy that engulfs her characters. Highly recommended.--Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Riveting . . . This season's Atonement." --Elle "Laced with intrigue." --The New York Times Book Review, "Editor's Choice" "Evocative, poignant, and skillfully crafted, The Piano Teacher is more than an epic tale of war and a tangled, tortured love story. It is the kind of novel one consumes in great, greedy gulps, pausing (grudgingly) only when absolutely necessary. . . . If we measure the skill of a fiction writer by her ability to create characters and atmosphere so effortlessly real, so alive on the page, that the reader feels a sense of participatory anxiety--as if the act of reading gives one the power to somehow influence the outcome of purely imaginary events--then Lee should be counted among the very best in recent memory." --Chicago Tribune "A shattering, immensely satisfying debut." --People (4 stars) "War, love, betrayal--an exquisite fugue of a first novel . . . intensely readable." --O, The Oprah Magazine "Lee unfolds the story with the brisk grace and discretion of the society she describes." --The New Yorker "Sensual and gripping." --Good Housekeeping "Janice Lee delivers a standout debut." ---The Boston Globe "The novel is sustained by elegant prose and a terrific sense of place. As Graham Greene evoked Vietnam in The Quiet American, Lee, born and raised in Hong Kong long after the war, captures the city as it was during World War II, its glittering veneer barely masking the panic and corruption beneath." --The Miami Herald "A compelling portrait of the devastating choices people make in order to survive." --TimeOut New York "Lee tells two engrossing love stories. . . . Just hide your phone before cracking this one open--or risk calling your ex." --Marie Claire "Lee delivers a standout debut [with] layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A lush examination of East-West relations." --Kirkus Reviews "Lee has created the sort of interesting, complex characters, especially in Trudy, that drive a rich and intimate look at what happens to people under extraordinary circumstances." --Booklist "A rare and exquisite story. It does exactly what a great novel should do--transports you out of time, out of place, into a world you can feel in your very own skin." --Elizabeth Gilbert "One of the most insightful, elegant, and atmospheric novels I've read in a long time. Janice Lee is nothing short of brilliant and her novel is impossible to put down." --Gary Shteyngart "Rarely does one encounter a debut work as beguiling and assured as Janice Lee's The Piano Teacher. Rich with intrigue, romance, and betrayal, this wonderfully written, utterly captivating novel dazzles with its sharp-eyed renderings of beau monde Hong Kong as it is plunged into the crucible of war. With its fascinating interplay of East and West and wide cast of effervescent characters . . . this is a truly transporting--and indeed irresistible--work of fiction." --Chang-Rae Lee "Compelling . . . A persuasive re-creation of a time and place." --Penelope Lively

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