Unravelling the past in post-war Hong Kong

2009-04-08 00:00

The Piano Teacher is Janice Y. K. Lee’s debut novel. It’s a remarkable book from a first-time writer who has managed to weave a compelling story spanning a decade. And the author has cleverly chosen one of the most event-filled decades ever perhaps: 1941 to 1952.

The novel is set in Hong Kong, one of the last places to be drawn into World War 2, when the Japanese invaded this multicultural city in 1941.

The story begins, however, when Claire Pendleton arrives in the city in 1952. She’s newly married to

Martin, a man who inspires in her nothing more than duty. He’s a civil servant sent to take up a post among the British ex-pats in the city. Claire finds herself with many hours to fill, as Martin’s job keeps him preoccupied. She had married Martin as a logical progression from leaving her parent’s house. But something seems to be missing in her life. She takes a job as a piano teacher to the daughter of a rich Chinese family, the Chens. But she’s unable to find fulfilment even in teaching so she begins to steal small but valuable objects from the family. Until she meets the family’s distant English chauffeur, Will Truesdale.

Lee flips between the present and the past to unravel the reason behind Will’s enigmatic persona. Lee weaves the threads of the intriguing world Will inhabited before the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong: a world which was dominated for him by the captivating Trudy, a Eurasian who picked only what she wanted from the two cultures she sprang from.

This novel is a great read. Lee writes well with sparse and insightful clarity and unravels history with her characters’ experience of turbulent wartime. It’s a long time since I’ve read a book that I didn’t want to end. The Piano Teacher is such a book.

Janet van Eeden

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.