The Piano Teacher is a compelling and intricately woven novel about choices, secrets, love and infidelity. It is set in the 1940s and 1950s in Hong Kong. Just before the war, Will Truesdale arrives in Hong Kong, meets Trudy Liang and the two embark on a ardent love affair. When the war starts and the Japanese occupy the city, lives are put in jeopardy and choices for survival must be made. Ten years later, after the war has ended, Claire Pendleton moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Martin. Shortly after she arrives, the Chen family hires her to teach their daughter piano. Being new to the city, Claire becomes lonely when her husband starts working long hours. That is until she meets a mysterious man and an affair ensues. It's only later that she discovers that he holds secrets long buried in the past.
I was fascinated by this novel. Lee's writing and story-telling is superb. She transports the reader back in time and takes the reader inside the lives of the characters. Her characters were so believable, it was easy sympathize with them in their plight. Rather than relating the story in a linear fashion, Lee jumps back and forth between the time periods slowly revealing the many facets of the story. This approach fit very well and added suspense to the shocking conclusion.
Through the story, Lee presents a lot of information about Hong Kong during that period of time and the people who lived through it all. I learned a lot. She really gave me a sense of being there in that dangerous environment without having to leave the safety of my favourite reading chair.
Before I read the book, I listened to an audio interview with Lee and an excerpt from the book. In the interview Lee mentions that in addition to using history books to research the time period, she also utilized advertisements to determine what people were doing at that time. It always amazing me when I hear about how much research goes into a book and the lengths to which authors have to go to gather that information. Lee's dedication and skill shone through in this novel.
Highly recommended. I'd love to read another book by Janice Lee.
To learn more about this book, visit the Penguin website.