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The Piano Teacher

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  17,825 Ratings  ·  2,650 Reviews
Exotic Hong Kong takes center stage in this sumptuous novel, set in the 1940s and '50s. It's a city teeming with people, sights, sounds, and smells, and it's home to a group of foreign nationals who enjoy the good life among the local moneyed set, in a tight-knit social enclave distanced from the culture at large. Comfortable, clever, and even a bit dazzling, they revel in ...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published January 13th 2009 by Viking (first published 2008)
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Cynthia There are discussion questions in the back of the paperback book I read. Very good ones too.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 20, 2008 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, january
Two days ago I thought my review of this book would be quite different than it is. Two days ago I was on page 113 of this book and I was getting frustrated with the vapid characters who were either spending all their time acting the part of the privileged upper class English ex-pats in Hong Kong or (in Claire's case) stealing trinkets. Even the war-time surrender of Hong Kong to the Japanese seemed only a minor inconvenience to these people. However, a mere 13 pages later, the story rapidly grow ...more
Feb 20, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-2, 2009
Lee alternates between two different time periods to tell the story of betrayal in war time Hong Kong. (Does anyone just write a linear story any more? Seems like every book I pick up these days uses this kind of device).

I really enjoyed the 1940's story line of Will and Trudy during the war - An Englishman and a Eurasian woman who are in the thick of the pre-war social scene and how their lives change when the Japanese invade Hong Kong. Will is interned as a prisoner of war and Trudy decides t
Nov 17, 2008 Britney rated it liked it
I've found that it's easy to find World War II literature that focuses on the Holocaust or on the American experience. It's harder to find books that explore the non-Western experience. The Piano Teacher explores how lives in Hong Kong in the 1950s was affected by the Japanese invasion of the British colony during the war.

Ultimately, the 1940s parts were more compelling. I wanted to know more about the relationship between Will and Trudy, Will's experience in an internment camp with other Weste
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I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as I had hoped. The story was riveting; however, the characters were tremendously shallow, hard to understand, and extremely hard to like.

The Storyline
The story switches points of view between 1953 and 1942 when World War II has struck Hong Kong.

In 1953, Claire and Martin Pendleton, a recently married English couple, have moved to Hong Kong. Claire becomes a piano teacher teaching a young girl named Locket. Her pa
Jan 19, 2010 Christina rated it did not like it
Shelves: garage-sale-pile
the salespeople at Borders did me wrong! in their defense, i had but 10 minutes on my parking meter and made a hasty decision to buy this book.

and what a book! what a dumb book. boring story. i kept waiting for the story to get moving and it never did.

this is a slow story about a bunch of english ex-pats living in hong kong and going to parties, having affairs, stealing things. Part 2 gets only mildly interesting when the japanese invade.

boring boring boring characters. i didn't really care w
Dec 20, 2009 Barbara rated it it was ok
Recommended to Barbara by: Susan
Shelves: asia, holocaust-ww-2
I completed this novel feeling frustrated and deflated. Yee could have expanded what she had so capably initiated.The manner which she utilized to relate this tale is often muddled and confusing. The story is set in Hong Kong and weaves back and forth between the 40's and 50's. She has clearly demonstrated the attitudes of class among the British, Americans and the native people. On one hand there are the people who are leading their frivolous existences similar to the Gatsby era and then there ...more
Mar 22, 2009 Dorothy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
bookshelves: read (edit)
status: Read in March, 2009, read count: 1
review: The cover of this book, The Piano Teacher, is its saving grace. It is a novel that attempts to provide some insights into conditions in Hong Kong prior to, during, and after World War II. It is a part of the world where the English, others, and the wealthy Chinese families form a tangled web of relationships.
On the one hand, we have Will Truesdale who finds himself strangely drawn to a Eurasian sprite of a girl,
Sep 29, 2014 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ambitious. Somewhat intriguing. Good but not perfect.

The Piano Teacher definitely turned out to be much different then I thought it would be. It's a WWII story (for some reason I'm drawn to them) with flash backs. The story takes place in present of the 1950's Hong Kong, a decade after the war. A British woman named Claire arrives with her husband Martin who has obtained a position at a water plant. Claire is trying to find her place among the other expatriates and her new surroundings. She do
Dec 15, 2008 Kaye rated it it was amazing
It is so hard to believe that this is a debut novel. I found it wonderfully written and I was drawn in immediately. The story starts out in 1952 as we are introduced to Claire Pendleton, recent arrival in Hong Kong with her much older husband, Martin. Claire has been hired by the socially prominent Chen family to teach Locket Chen the piano. When the Chen family invites Claire and her husband to a party, she meets Will Truesdale, the Chen chauffer. The Chen family and Will Truesdale figure promi ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Mar 28, 2016 Robert Blumenthal rated it it was amazing
There are certain writers who just grab me, and Janice Lee is definitely one of them. She has a remarkable ability to tell a story, especially in her developing of characters and evoking a setting. Her home turf is Hong Kong (both of her novels take place there), but it is how she places her characters in the setting that speaks to me. She has shown a wonderful ability to develop characters who are unrelated at the start and weave a narrative that intertwines them in ways that are both overt and ...more
May 05, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning was a little hard to get into. I was about to give up so read some of the reviews on here found I wasn't alone. I pushed through and I'm so glad I did!! This was a beautifully written, it brought Hong Kong and the war alive. There were very interesting characters as well. Around page 100 it got so good I devoured the rest!
Nov 10, 2009 Charly rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People with short to-read lists
This is another one that I wouldn't put to the top of my to read list. It was a first effort I think by the author and I thought I would give it a chance. Set in Hong Kong it deals with pre-war to post_war relationships that were somewhat transparent to me. Nothing to write home about.
Nadine Jones
"You must be different now,” she said. “You must rise to the occasion. And you must be strong. Now is the time for you to make a difference.”

This book was lush and beautiful and I loved it, but at the same time I found it very unsatisfying. It promised me so much! But it didn't keep all its promises. It's as if someone took a great story, removed a few key chapters, and then handed it to me. I was left with a lot of questions: what was that about? What did it mean? So I'm giving it four stars,
Jul 12, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
Disappointment. Although that's what this book sets out to portray, it accomplishes it in a different way that the author intended.
Set in the historically fascinating world of British Hong Kong in the 1940s and 50s, The Piano Teacher begins as a rather artsy novel that had a lot of potential. However, it fell flat about three or four chapters in, and the rest was dull and underachieving. Where Janice K. Lee has promise as a novelist, this book needed more personal editing and plot consolidation
So this book seriously sucked. The first few pages held some interest, but after that it didn't redeem itself until the last handful of chapters. I suppose I have no one to blame but myself and my stubbornness to finish every book that I endeavor to read. But I can assure you that I will remember little one week from now.

Page-turning? "[A book] you can't put down"? Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. This should teach me to consider my other options very conscientiously the next time I have a book rated below a 3.
Jul 08, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok
I liked the book fine. The story was good, but I found that I was annoyed by the author's style, which I found disorienting and confusing. With fiction, I usually start a book and don't put the book down, but with this book, I read the first 20 or 30 pages and found the disjointed writing really did not pull me in to the story. I put the book down and didn't come back for over a month --- and didn't really have a burning desire to come back during that time.

I have recently read Water for Elephan
Have you ever read a book at just the right time? That was the case with this book. I was feeling like something light, chicklit-ish, so this book hit the spot. I enjoyed the backdrop of the British-Chinese-Japanese contention. The portrayal of the Chinese difficulty in survival in their own country, camps, British betrayal of the Chinese and the look at some Chinese who profited by selling out their own people offered several perspectives of this terrible time in Chinese history.

All that aside
Jan 17, 2012 Sharmeela rated it liked it
Recommends it for: umm how about a piano teacher...or Chinese people...prob not Japanese though
Recommended to Sharmeela by: me
This book was just okay. The plot had such potential, but Lee chose to squander it somewhat. I'll admit I enjoyed the past/present flow of the story, but the actual story was more boring than anything. I found myself waiting and waiting for Lee to get to the point, to no avail. I assumed (naively) that since I'm waiting and waiting for this giant secret to emerge, that it would have to be something worthwhile. But alas, I was wrong! It was the most obvious secret ever! I was thoroughly disappoin ...more
May 27, 2010 Adrienne rated it really liked it
Shelves: oriental, war
October 10....I've had a chance to sleep on this even though I went to bed crying,woke in the night crying and have been weepy for most of the day when I think about this story. B/c it's had such a profound affect on a Megan Hart it's staying and not going quietly...I've decided to give it 5 stars. I stopped giving stars, in the hopes that you guys would read the review and then decide if the book was one you'd like to read but I feel so strongly about this one.....My emotion at the m ...more
Maya Panika
Nov 26, 2008 Maya Panika rated it really liked it
Don't judge a book by its cover!

On the surface, this is a romance novel about a man’s One Great Love that can’t withstand the rigours of the war, and a less than great affair with a married piano teacher. Underneath that surface lies a cleverly constructed mystery about a beautiful socialite who disappears during the war and the people responsible, directly and indirectly, for her death.

Some of the characters grow rich, stay safe, become successful, others are interned, tortured and die – and
Morana Mazor
Malo mi je teže opisati ovu knjigu jer je nekako čudna (barem meni); mislim, početak je polagan i treba vremena da se pohvataju likovi, a i radnju pratimo paralelno u dva vremenska perioda. Ali, kada se sve to pohvata, onda je to jedna jako dobra priča koja se odvija u Hong Kongu prije, tijekom i iza 2.svj. rata. Radnja se bavi hongkonškom elitom koja je uhvaćena u vrtlog ratnih zbivanja i japanske okupacije..zanimljivo je i sa povijesnog aspekta..odnos Istoka i Zapada u tom vremenu.. Onda je tu ...more
Nov 19, 2013 Carmen rated it really liked it
Wow. When I first started reading this book, I didn't think it was so great. Well-written, certainly, but nothing to write home about. I thought Lee was writing underdeveloped women characters, and also, she wrote her women characters as if she didn't really like women. The, after about a quarter of the book, it turns into a war novel. I really dislike novels about war. So I was not enjoying it very much. HOWEVER, about tho-thirds through the book, it starts getting really good, and everything j ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
"the writing is beautiful, the research is superb, and the setting is fantastic". Two love stories 10 years apart. War changes everything and torments the survivors. She deftly describes Hong Kong weather (torrents of rain) the heat, the crowded market streets and the prison where the non-asian were imprisoned.

I listened to this and loved the narrator.
Feb 11, 2010 Sandi rated it it was ok
The Piano Teacher takes place in Hong Kong and basically deals with how the characters in the story are affected by the Japanese occupation.

This book switches between the the early 1940's and the early 1950's. Set in Hong Kong, it is easy to follow these jumps from from one era back and forth to the other. The title makes the reader assume that the main character is the person who teaches piano (Claire). Claire is in the 1950's part of the story. The 1940's part focuses on Will Truesdale and Tr
Marc Maitland
Because of the mixed reviews, and this being the author’s first work, I really had no idea what to expect. Criticised by some and described as “this year’s ‘Atonement’” by others (in a presumably complimentary way), I was very pleased with both the plot and the very well-researched attention to detail. In my opinion, it is a far better read than Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”, which I read (and reviewed) a year ago.

I don’t even want to attempt to summarise the plotline, which basically jumps between
Apr 02, 2009 Lori rated it liked it
Claire, the piano teacher of the title, is a bland, blonde, naive young British newlywed recently relocated to Hong Kong with her husband. She takes a position as a piano teacher for the young daughter of a wealthy Chinese family and she is introduced to the brittle, shallow, wealthy, prejudiced expatriate community in 1950's Hong Kong. Eventually she meets and begins an affair with Will Truesdale, a long-time British expatriate with a mysterious history.

Alternating chapters with Claire's story
Amit Shetty
A beautiful story with no ending

The above statement probably summarizes how I feel about the book. Set in China, the story deals with a multitude of characters with no one playing the central role (not even the piano teacher). What I loved about this book was the fact that every chapters shifted from one timeline to another giving the reader a detailed glimpse of the present and the past. This is particularly effective in this book since the past basically deals with the multitude of crimes co
Carmaletta Hilton
Nov 18, 2009 Carmaletta Hilton rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 17, 2010 Eva rated it it was ok
Usually if a book is on the Kramer Book's "crack table" (their display of books that is so addictive that I cannot leave the store without purchasing something) it is at a minimum an interesting read. This one.... Well, let's say it is 2 1/2 stars. The story is set in Hong Kong and basically that of two women and the man they are involved with ... not at the same time. One during WWII and the Japanese occupation of the city and the other in the 50s ... The historic background I liked since I kno ...more
Rachel C.
Not a fan. I think part of the problem was that I went in expecting something different - that is, more of the romantic storyline and more sophisticated character development. In fact, the titular piano teacher is absent from more than half of the book and largely irrelevant to what I consider to be the main plot.

The beginning was slow, and felt very stilted and anemic. The middle section changed tone completely and was all about the effects of WWII. It goes into excruciating detail about life i
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Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong, the child of Korean immigrants. She went to the United States for school and graduated from Harvard College with a degree in English and American Literature and Language.

After college she moved to New York and worked for several years as an editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines before getting an MFA from Hunter College and starting her first nove
More about Janice Y.K. Lee...

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“And in the end, I think, we're all just trying to survive, aren't we?” 23 likes
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