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Peony has neither seen nor spoken to any man other than her father, a wealthy Chinese nobleman. Nor has she ever ventured outside the cloistered women's quarters of the family villa. As her sixteenth birthday approaches, she finds herself betrothed to a man she does not know, but Peony has dreams of her own. Her father engages a theatrical troupe to perform scenes from "The Peony Pavilion", a Chinese epic opera, in their garden amidst the scent of ginger, green tea and jasmine. 'Unmarried girls should not be seen in public,' says Peony's mother, but her father allows the women to watch from behind a screen. Here, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man and is immediately bewitched. So begins her unforgettable journey of love, desire, sorrow and redemption.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780747592730
ISBN-10: 074759273X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 25mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 7-Jul-2008
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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Book Review: Peony in Love by Lisa See - Reviewed by (14 Jan 2010)

Peony In Love is a captivating story set in the seventeenth century China, encircling a young maiden (Peony) from a prominent family. Despaired of being caught in an arranged marriage, Peony starves herself to death, only to learn right before her death that the man her father has picked for her is the man she loves. Her journey in both the mundane world and the after-world gives me insight of the traditional bounds and spiritual beliefs of the people in China. This story introduced me to the women who secretly yearns for true love, besides trying to win respect and achieving freedom in a male-dominated society.

“An educated woman is a worthless woman.” Because of this popular adage, almost all of the women in China lost their chance to get a proper education and thus, only the men has ultimate power. Any woman’s writing, even if it were an excellent piece, would be considered not worthy of reading. However, some of the women writers did get their works published to express their opinions and thoughts on various subjects to make sure that their words can be heard by everyone.

Peony died at a young age, but instead of resting in peace, her soul kept roaming the human’s world because her ancestor’s tablet was not dotted, and she could not continue her journey. Even though she was a ghost, she still loved her poet, and tried to make him happy in all ways.

Lisa See’s writing is still as skillful and beautiful as ever. The love between Peony and her poet seems fairytale-like. At first I thought that it was merely a puppy love, but soon I realized that I was wrong. They loved each other deeply, even though they have only met each other for four times. Peony's life resembles that of the main character of the famous The Peony Pavilion, an opera she was quite obsessed with.

The Chinese’s foot-binding tradition has always enchanted and horrified me at the same time. The girls had to endure great pain to shape their feet into perfect three-inch lilies. In the "Spring Sickness In Summer" chapter, you will know more about the procedure of foot-binding, when Peony’s mother binds her niece’s feet.

I also read about marriage preparations, obsequies rituals, as well as the ghost marriage, which is still performed in some places nowadays. Well, I won’t deny that I find that some parts of the story are not logical, especially the part where she helps Qian Yi conceive a son. But after all, Peony is a ghost, isn’t she?

Through this novel, I learned about different aspects of love, uncover the truth that has been kept a secret by Peony’s parents and hear the voices of the women who wanted to be heard through their works of literature. Peony In Love is hauntingly beautiful…it’s definitely a book worth reading.


Author Biography - Lisa See

Lisa See is the author of the best-selling Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net, 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.

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