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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon August 18, 2007
The old theme of star-crossed lovers takes an Oriental twist in this historical period drama about a love-struck young girl, an enamored poet, and the opera that not only brings them together but casts them apart.

This story is about Peony, a young woman and only child of a wealthy family. Set in seventeenth century China, when well brought up young women weren't allowed to be seen or heard, especially by strange men, Peony's father organizes a theatrical performance of the opera "The Peony Pavilion", and although her mother doesn't want her to see it, arrangements are made for a screen to be erected, behind which the women can get a glimpse of the epic opera. Peony is a big fan of "The Peony Pavilion", having collected many editions, reading and memorizing many of the popular segments, but even though seeing it live is a big thrill, she becomes more interested in observing a young man sitting in the audience.

Risking her reputation, she wanders off on her own, and as fate would have it, she encounters the young man in an isolated place, where they discover that they enjoy each other's company very much. Unfortunately, Peony is already betrothed by way of an arranged marriage, and as the big day approaches she spends her days dreaming of the young man and obsessively recording her thoughts in an edition of the great opera, refusing food and ignoring the advice of the doctors and other experts that come to see her. From this point her life takes a dramatic turn with a cruel twist, and the story and the opera fuse together in elaborate fashion, becoming a dark fantasy full of ghosts, superstition and tradition.

The author lingers over the historical details, the proud traditions, the poetry of the opera and the protocols of the afterlife, as well as other remarkable activities such as foot binding and embroidery, and although this is an extremely poignant and melancholy book, it is so rich in description that you won't want to put it down. A dramatic, absorbing and informative story that will remain with you for a long time after you've finished reading it.

Amanda Richards
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2008
Peony in Love by Lisa See is a very unique novel about a fifteen-year-old girl, Peony, that is arranged to be married to a man she has never seen. She meets a man in the garden one day, which is the first time in her life that she has met a man, who is not related to her, and she is alone. Her life will change forever. The story takes place in ancient times in China, where everyone adheres to strict traditions.

There is a lot of reference to Tang Xianzu's opera, The Peony Pavilion, which was first produced and published in 1598. Peony is obsessed with this opera, and put a great deal of thought into it. There is a lot of poetry in this novel, which makes it pleasant to read.

I recommend everyone to read this touching story that is truly unique and fascinating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2009
This was my first read of Lisa See, and it totally captivated me. The plot is original, the story is poignant without being sentimental, and the narrative is as beautiful and delicate as the peony and its namesake main character. I'm a really fussy reader, and for a novel to grab me from beginning to end without my wanting to put it down is quite an accomplishment. Lisa See manages to convey a unique story with a superb style that somehow manages to be both light yet heavy, simple yet complex. The world she has recreated comes vividly to life and is populated by characters that are truly genuine and interesting.

I highly, highly recommend this book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon August 22, 2011
This book is a blend of historical perspective combined with the spiritual life of 17th century China. A 9 hours long opera 'The Peony Pavilion' written by Tan Xianzu in 1598 provides the framework. The opera tells a tale of lovesick young women who fall in love go on a hunger strike and gradually waist away only to be reborn after their death as ghosts.

The author's tale is a mix of spirituality, cultural details, tradition, superstitions and everyday life experiences. The story opens with 16 year old Peony and other young women watching through a slit in the viewing screen the opening performance of 'The Peony Pavilion', custom does not allow them to mix with the male audience. During a poignant moment in the performance Peony catches a glimpse of Wu Ren, a handsome young man in the audience. Overcome by emotion she leaves the room and as destiny would have it, she eventually encounters him in a courtyard near the lakeside pavilion' is an encounter that launches a love story with all the atmosphere of the period'..

This tragic love story takes us through a mystical journey to hell, with demons, ghosts and sword fighting. The main character Peony narrates her life in a rather lackluster manner and appears a little naïve when devastated by cruel twists of fate. When she reappears as a ghost the story become monotonous, a constant tale of stalking and obsessiveness and the slow pacing became overwhelming and I found myself quickly losing interest and eventually wondered how I made it to the last page.

In all fairness, there are interesting parts that add a tad of substance to the tale, I found the background information about the Cataclysm, the Manchu overthrow of the Ming regime and the beliefs and ritual of the people to be interesting.

I may not have appreciated this novel to its fullest but others have and others will.
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on August 5, 2013
It is a book about literature and writing. Interesting, but I have two misgivings about it.

The first: Considering that the main heroine dies on page one hundred, it means that the reader has to spend the remaining hundred and eighty pages with ghosts.

The second: It is not clear whether we are talking about the opera written by a man (Tang Xianzu), or about the Commentary by the three wives.What was so objectionable to the public? If it was the Commentary, it wouldn't have hurt to see more examples of the text in the book. Is Peony in Love to be the apotheosis of women's writing, or is it a historical novel? A historical novel can be written as fiction, if acknowledged, but the authoress claims unequivocally that the novel is to be considered historical. How could the ghost of the first wife participate in the writing?

Not a happy feeling during the reading.
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on February 17, 2008
This book is a provocative story that takes on an amazing twist - which I never expected. Lisa See knows her craft. She has the ability to draw me into her novels where I find myself in another place and time!

Peony in Love is another book I've added to my most favorites, I simply couldn't put it down!
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on February 24, 2015
I am a fan of Lisa See but didn't especially enjoy this book.
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on February 8, 2015
So disappointed in this one. Boring and dark.
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