Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beyond FICTION: PEONY IN LOVE by Lisa See

Lisa See celebrated the paperback release of her latest novel, Peony in Love, this past week by kicking off a whirlwind tour that will take her from coast to coast and back again, with a few stops in between. While no signing in Denver is on her agenda (bummer!), I’m happy to have my signed copy of her fifth novel already in hand. Some day I’ll get to meet this wonderful author!

Peony takes place in late-17th-century China, a time of immense changes following the Manchu overthrow of the Ming regime. The main character, a girl named Peony, tells of the tremendous impact of that violent regime change on her family through stories she’s heard since childhood…and stories she learns after her death. While Peony in Love delves into the afterworld in more ways than one, it’s much more than a ghost story set in China. Lisa See’s stunning imagery, detailed portraits, and intricate ability to present varying points of view (despite the limitations of first-person narration) lead to an intricate study of complex relationships. Each character is treated with such care that revelations about their personalities and motivations come as complete surprises coupled with complete plausibility. Shifting understandings and realities that occur within a family over generations marked alternatively by prosperity and despair are presented in a scope accomplished through shifts of reality not only within life on earth but within an existence beyond earthly understanding.

Chinese traditions, foods, observances, beliefs, rituals, and rules from long ago fuel the plot of Peony in Love, but so do the strength of Chinese women and the ancient desire of all women to express their unique views and experiences despite the many demands and restrictions history has placed upon them. A celebration of these traditions and of true stories from China regarding love-sick maidens and the lengths they endured to pursue love and learning and self-autonomy combine to make Peony in Love a highly original, cherished work of art.

Go here to see if Lisa will be signing books in your neck of the woods.

15 Comments:

Blogger Moanna said...

Great review. You've made me want to read this. Thank you.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're welcome, Moanna! It really is a unique novel. K.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks for the review. I've seen this book and been intrigued by the cover and title. After reading your review, I'm going to add it to my list of books to buy. It sounds great.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Shauna! K.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Ello said...

Oh this is on my TBR pile! I have been really eager to read it, even though I've heard mixed reviews on it. Great review!

9:19 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Thanks, Ello! Your comment strikes at something I find intriguing: my inability to write negative reviews! So I only write about books I love and I don't pretend to be objective about them since reading for me is such an emotional activity anyway. I did read a terrible review of PEONY in the NYTimes; it was terrible in that it ripped the book to shreds, insulted the author and (I thought) entirely missed the point of the book. So I ignored it.

Another point: I know serious reviewers consider it really bad form to have any contact with an author whatsoever. Meanwhile, I'm most enthusiastic about a book when I know the author either personally or via cyberspace and believe it's good karma to let that writer know through a personal review what I loved about his or her book.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about all this! Bottom line: I really enjoy Lisa See's writing, was awed by PEONY, and hope you enjoy it, too. K.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Me said...

Hi Karen,

I just discovered your blog and I love it!

Please come visit My American Meltingpot sometime. I think you'll find we're kindred spirits.

Keep doing what you do!

Lori

9:09 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

LORI, I'm so glad you stopped by!! K.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Ello said...

WEll, I 'm with you. I would prefer not to review it on my blog if I didn't at least like it. And people's tastes are so subjective. I loved the Road and my husband hated hated hated it! So, I'm not going to go by a review if I am still intrigued.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

I have yet to read this book, I'm currently reading Dragon Bones. I love all her Liu Hulan series.

Thanks for a great review!

9:49 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're very welcome, Sherry! This is the first Lisa See book I've read, but I'm looking foward to reading many more. K.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Sarah Ockler said...

Hi Karen - great write-up! That was a fun night. You've inspired me to get my pics online, too. Hope to see you or chat soon!

11:34 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! It was so nice to meet you! K.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Sherry ~ Cherie ~ ms. herbes de provence said...

I did finally read this book a few months ago and while I enjoyed it, I also found it a little difficult to read. I needed to be in a quiet place so that I could concentrate to "follow" along -- it's the gripping another culture that I often need full thought for. Some of that is my brain post chemo, some of that is (age!!) just understanding how other parts of the world function and or have functioned. But the premise of the story -- that I did like very much!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're right, Sherry, it definitely isn't an easy read, but I agree it's worth it! K.

4:07 PM  

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