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Peony in Love

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  44,577 ratings  ·  4,572 reviews
“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic
Paperback, 297 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  44,577 ratings  ·  4,572 reviews

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Sep 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
5/1/14 EDIT: Sooo I stopped checking comments for months, and I come back to either rage or agreement with regard to my review. All I have to say is THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD. Also, if you're on the fence about whether or not to continue reading this book, don't read this review unless you're set on quitting.

Okay? Okay. Onwards to the actual review!


I just couldn't finish it. And I tried. Really, really tried. Even after studying Chinese history extensively in college, I'm usually not
3 out of 5 stars to Lisa See's Peony in Love, a historical fiction book released in 2007 by Random House set in 17th century China.

Why This Book
I found it sitting on a bookshelf in my condo's laundry room. I read the jacket description, which sounded like a beautiful tale of love, emotions and a little bit of history. I brought it home with me that afternoon, knowing it would come in handy. And when I finished up a few ARCs, I needed a different kind of book; I saw this on my own she
Aj the Ravenous Reader

“"When people are alive they love, when they die, they keep loving. If love ends when a person dies, that is not real love"

I have a confession to make. I bought this book not by choice but by mere economic benefit. The paperback (the brand new one still wrapped in cellophane) was on sale and I bought it for a very fairly cheap price. Guess how much. (view spoiler)

I was elated to discover that this is a historical novel as I made a
Elyse  Walters
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm sure I wrote a review for this book too, at one point.... I have no idea where it's hanging out!

I liked this --- and I still remember it but I'm generally not a huge fan of books dealing with the afterlife.... but this was done really well. It's not a STRONG 5 star read - but it's close IMO .... you certainly learn about another aspect of this culture.

4.5 rating - round up to 5 stars
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is amazing!!! It is beautifully written (lovely descriptions and intricate details), well researched, and unbelievably touching. There were moments where I feel I can't read anymore because I am so overwhelmed with emotion, but I can never put the book down for any real length of time. I have become completely engrossed. The summary of the book is a little misleading. It describes the book as a love story. I do not find it to be one. Peony in Love is a romantic and tragic story. Love p ...more
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Set in 17th-century China, See’s fifth novel is a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, a family saga and a work of musical and social history. As Peony, the 15-year-old daughter of the wealthy Chen family, approaches an arranged marriage, she commits an unthinkable breach of etiquette when she accidentally comes upon a man who has entered the family garden. Unusually for a girl of her time, Peony has been educated and revels in studying The Peony Pavilion, a real opera published in 1598, as the r
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Lisa See and/or Chinese history
Lisa See took a significant period during Chinese history about women writers at the end of the Ming dynasty to "capture the spirit of their story" in this eloquent fictional account. Not a romance, but a love story with a twist. Part 1 was okay, but it lagged a little for me; however, Part 2 really picked up when Peony continues to tell her story, but as a "hungry ghost". I found See's extensive research into Chinese life, culture, traditions and customs extremely fascinating, especially in reg ...more
Stacy Wood Woods
Jan 28, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was trying too hard to be existential and had wierd poetry and the story went nowhere, but pretended that it would.
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Fiction and Romance - it's a perfectly harmonious blend!
Occasionally, rarely, I read a book after which I need to take a few days to come up for air, so to speak. A book that moves me so deeply and which leaves me thinking ...and thinking. Peony in Love is just such a book. A true work of art. Amazing, beginning to end. As I told a friend, I CARED so much about what was happening with the characters, I was literally losing sleep. I wish I could add an extra star to my rating - this is a six-star novel. Kudos to Lisa See for knocking another one out o ...more
Julie Ekkers
Mar 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I just didn't like this book (though I did like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan). To be fair, I didn't expect to like Peony, but one of the reviews said it "belonged in my beach bag,' which sounded like what I was after at the time. I just couldn't get into it. I think because there's SO much exposition of this Chinese opera in the background, and too little (for me anyway) about the main characters. it's also one of these books where everything is set in motion by a COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE misunder ...more
Grace Tjan
'My eyes were shaped like bamboo leaves; my brows were like gentle brushstrokes limned by a calligrapher'.

The notion that 17th century Chinese characters would speak like this for the benefit of 21st century English-speaking readers is preposterous to say the least. It is obvious that the author has conducted extensive research on the history and culture of late Ming/ early Qing dynasty Hangzhou, and the fruits of that research abound in this historical-supernatural novel. However, the anthropol
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peony is a 15-year-old girl in Manchu China who falls in love with the opera The Peony Pavilion, a love story in which the ghost of a girl is brought back to life by the man she loves. Peony's father hosts a production of the opera (which Peony assumes is for her, rather than to impress the powerful men that her father has visiting), and Peony meets a young man three nights in a row. She falls in love with him, but at the end of the third night they know they both must go on to their arranged ma ...more
Connie Rea
The first time I had contact with this book, was by listening to it on my way to work. As soon as it was done, I ran out and bought the book. I just *needed* to view the words that I had heard on the audiobook. As soon as I finished reading the last page, I turned to page 1 and started over again. This is the first and only time that I have ever done that. This is one of my all time favorite books, and I keep a copy beside my bed, so it is never far from my mind...
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As i was making my way through the first section of Peony in Love, i was beginning to think i should have paid more heed to the valentine heart on its spine (my library system's way of signifying that it was of the romance genre) because Peony was mooning like a lovesick girl who knew not enough of the world and it was all just a little overmuch for me.

But then she died, and it got so much better. I had rather eagerly anticipated this novel, because i had loved Lisa See's last, Snow Flower and t
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Lisa See's writing is beautiful, and I understand this book is supposed to be about the women of China who wanted their voices to be heard. But what I found really fascinating about it was the descriptions of Chinese rituals and superstitions, and learning what the Chinese thought about death. The descriptions were so vivid to me that I felt like I could really see the pavilions, the plum tree, the Viewing Terrace.
There were so many sentences that made me reflect about life in general. "My hear
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Peony in Love has a few of the same elements but is, nicely, a different novel. Peony is the only child of a wealthy couple who experienced some hard times during the Manchu raids. Peony, encouraged by her father, loves to read. She reads extensively but her favorite work is the Peony Pavilion--an opera. Her father stages the opera at her home and the women are allowed to watch through a screen. Peony meets a boy, falls in love, and begins ...more
An interesting story, with a clever structure, weaving parallels between the legend of the Peony Pavilion with the "real" story of a girl called Peony, though that does make the first third very predictable.

I found the faux naive voice of Peony a little irritating at times; it is too didactic in the way it fills readers in on the historical detail of customs and beliefs, being more like a factual book than a novel. Whilst I found all that interesting, I think it could have been presented more su
Audiobook Review.

I've never read or listened to anything by Lisa See, so this was my first for one of my club's challenge. The story is set in Manchu, China and it is of a girl named Peony who is now of marriagable age. She is 15-years old and is fascinated and in love with the opera, The Peony Pavilion. This opera happens to be hosted by her father and is about a ghost of a girl who is brought back to life by the man she loves. Peony believes it is for her rather than the elite group of men vis
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
I'm usually a stoic person, and not prone to tearjerker moments, most of the time when I see a sad part in a movie or read a sad part in a book, I can simply read it and move on, however well it's written. But that was not the case with this book, and it serves as an example of how good this book is.

I already read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but I liked this book better. The writing style for both books is awesome, but I liked the story in this one better. Everything is so beautifully descri
Lyn Elliott
A friend recommended I read this book, possibly because she knows I am interested in Chinese history. I did skip right through it so that I could talk to her about it. Syrupy romances and ghost stories are way out of my reading range. But the depictions of the lives and values of wealthy Chinese families, especially this female view, are fascinating if horrifying. Almost every day I am consciously aware of how fortunate I am to be a woman in a society like Australia, where women are still not eq ...more
This book is quite hard to classify and I cannot even decide whether I liked it or not. It could be historical fiction, but not quite. There has been excellent research on Chinese practices during the Ming dynasty, and Chinese beliefs in the afterlife have been depicted in detail. The book is basically set in the past, and is based on real people who lived and a real opera wrote in the 1500s. But most of the book is about a ghost, so historical fiction doesn’t quite fit.

Then this could be classi
Aug 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Young Peony was brought up to be a good daughter and wife. At her sixteenth birthday, she knows that her future is set but when she chances a meeting with a handsome man at a theater performance, she begins to feel a longing and desire that sets the course for this novel.

Originally, when I read the blurb of this book, I thought it had an incredibly interesting concept and was rather excited to read a novel that was so rich in Chinese culture and tradition, since I would be rather ignorant in th
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book by accident, knew nothing about it, never read the author before and the book was there for the taking so I took it. It takes place in 17th century China. and describes the life of a 15 year old girl named Peony, in a affluent family, educated, cloistered and in love with the opera, The Peony Pavilion which I hope I can also get a copy of to read. Some would consider it a love story , some a coming of age, others fantasy , and also a ghost story. To me it was historical fiction ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historical fiction readers
Peony in Love is a ghost story and a love story set in seventeenth-century China. The research that Lisa See put into this novel is formidable as always. The novel enlightens one about seventeenth century family relationships and ancestor veneration in China, beliefs about the afterlife, the history of a famous opera, "The Peony Pavilion" and the effects that it had on young women, the renaissance of women poets and writers during that era, foot-binding, marriage customs, the political scene at ...more
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: GIRLS
Recommended to bonnie by: Marlene Sachs
I liked this book the same way I liked The Other Boleyn Girl. That is, I had trouble putting it down even at work. Indeed, they are the same kind of book - historical fiction taking a partially true story from a very very long time ago and spicing it up by adding elements of a romance novel. The historical fiction aspect makes it not trashy, but it is just as devourable as trash. It does not disappoint in this respect. And in depicting the afterworld according to Chinese mythology... MAN, it is ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I will ever forget the details of this book. Written by Lisa See (SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN) I was expecting a lot. Reading the author's notes after finishing the book cinched the 5 star rating. Realizing the amount of truth and actual history was astonishing.
This strangely beautiful love story, set in 17th century China, could also be a ghost story, or a story of women's liberation. It had so many layers it is hard to categorize. Peony's story mirrors that of the Chinese oper
Jan 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in a woman's role in Imperial China
Lisa See's research comes out in almost every passage of this historical novel of the first Manchu dynasty in China. Because my daughter is learning about China, I gravitated towards this novel in eagerness to learn more about the power, or lack of power, that women have had in China throughout the centuries. See follows the plot of a famous Chinese opera, The Peony Pavilion, by having her young maiden be so swept away with emotion and desire that she stops eating and loses her chance at earthly ...more
Kim A
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-faves
Sections of the book I found both beautiful and sad.

"I was adamant that my poems not be found, but I didn't have the strength of will to set fire to them. Too many women burn their words in a fit of thinking them not worthy, only to regret it later".

"When a girl falls into marriage, she exhales her beauty, and loses forever her romantic image. She still has many obligations to fulfill-giving birth to sons, honoring her husband's ancestors, becoming a chaste widow-but she has already begun her gl
I almost didn't finish this book, but I'm glad I did. It's uneven quality accounts for the rating. Considering the ending, which redeems so much which seemed sensational, tawdry and even dangerous and the fact that it is based on a true story, I was inclined to be generous. Still, I struggled between liking what See did by giving us a view of life after death, and not caring for the toxicity of too much romance. The main character was swept away by her own love affair. Although that wasn't the w ...more
Kristina V. Ramos
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, asian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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very good story 5 52 Aug 02, 2012 05:15AM  
Peony In Love 2 40 Jul 23, 2011 08:21PM  
The afterlife of China 5 59 Jun 23, 2011 11:49AM  
Peony... and what? 1 131 Mar 27, 2008 09:59AM  

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Lisa See is a Chinese-American author. Her books include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Dragon Bones, and On Gold Mountain. She was named the 2001 National Woman of the Year, by the Organization of Chinese American Women. She lives in Los Angeles.

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