Peony in Love by Lisa See
A Novel

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Synopsis

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.

“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

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: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” 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–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’ s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.
 

About Lisa See

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Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published June 26, 2007 by Random House. 406 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Peony in Love

Kirkus Reviews

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Foot-binding, opera and anorexia are feminist statements in See's (Snowflower and the Secret Fan, 2005, etc.) ghost story set in 17th-century China.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

The New York Times

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(“I smiled inwardly, knowing that the flower and I shared the same name.”) Peony is obsessed with “The Peony Pavilion” even before her life starts to mimic its plotline.

Jul 19 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

The New York Times

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To the discerning eye the account of Tang Xianzu’s late-16th-century Chinese opera “The Peony Pavilion” and the writing and publication in 1694 of what is known as “The Three Wives’ Commentary” might seem a kind of historical “ready made.” Lisa See, author of four previous novels, including “Drag...

Jul 22 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

The Guardian

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Peony in Love by Lisa See 304pp, Bloomsbury, £10.99 I started reading Peony in Love, Lisa See's intriguing new novel, in the week that the terracotta army came to the British Museum.

Dec 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

Book Reporter

PEONY IN LOVE is the latest novel by bestselling author Lisa See.

Jan 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

AV Club

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A love story becomes a ghost story in this rich extrapolation about the effect of an opera on Manchu-dynasty Chinese girls.

Aug 02 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

AV Club

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While Peony's narration of her postmortem experiences suffers somewhat from her inability to engage in dialogue, the momentum created by her interrupted life sustains the novel to its uplifting conclusion.

Aug 02 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Peony in Love You can read Lisa See's novels for their emotionally wrenching feminist story lines.

Jun 25 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

Suite 101

The article describes how colour can be used as a means of revealing hidden patterns within text - such as the works of Shakespeare.

Sep 21 2009 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

The Bookbag

The love story that follows echoes that of the classic Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion and both are used to explore the nature of women's lives during 17th century China - and in particular the lives and influence of women writers of the time.

Dec 03 2012 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

USA Today

It was written by the wives of an accomplished poet, two of whom died early in their marriage, leaving the work to be completed by the third.Lisa See imagines the lives of these women in Peony in Love, an exquisite rendering of life and love in this world and the next.

Jul 05 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

About.com

After twenty-five years as a ghost, Peony finally finds peace: "Gone were my girlish ideas about romantic love and my later ideas about sexual love.

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Gather Books

Drawing from resources including Tang Xianzu's opera The Peony Pavillion (first published in 1598), Wu Wushan's Three Wives' Collaborative Commentary on The Peony Pavillion, Jingmei Chen's dissertation The Dream World of Love-Sick Maidens, a plethora of scholarly research and personal interviews,...

Jun 24 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

However, the richness of detail threatens to overshadow the narrative, a fault which prompts one reviewer to assert that Peony in Love, whose plot mirrors that of an opera and which serves up themes of love, inspiration, and creativity, would be have been better as a work of history than a novel.

Aug 07 2007 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

Military.com

"Peony in Love" tells the story of Peony, a smart, willful 16-year-old girl engrossed by her collection and readings of different versions of the infamous opera "The Peony Pavilion," which was thought to cause "love sickness" and death.

Mar 11 2008 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

A Novel Menagerie

I really enjoyed this book as well, but haven’t read any of Lisa See’s other books.

Mar 02 2009 | Read Full Review of Peony in Love: A Novel

Reader Rating for Peony in Love
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