“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”Here are my notes from early in 2008 (edited to avoid spoilers): "Wonderful tale of women's issues set in historical China and based on factual information. Peony wants to make something of her life and becomes obsessed with writing a critical assessment of an opera that carries her name: The Peony Pavilion. Through the course of the novel, Peony learns what it means to be a woman in China in her times, learns the true stories of her mother and grandmother, sees her father and grandfather in a new (and changing) light, and even comes to terms with her duties as a wife and sister wife. Peony's journey to become an ancestor will stay with me for a long time. Narrator Janet Song did a wonderful job with the Chinese words and accents, enhancing the novel."
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. . . 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.
If you haven't read Peony in Love or See's earlier Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, you don't know what you're missing. Highly recommended for anyone who loves historical fiction, books about women's issues, and books that transport you to other places, other times.
The cover is from the 2008 Random House edition. (Source: Bought; see review policy)
Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's P.