In 1942, Will Truesdale arrives in Hong Kong and is immediately swept away by Trudy Liang, an exotic and extravagant Eurasian. Living the high life in Hong Kong, they have few concerns until World War II and the Japanese change their lives forever. Ten years later, the war is over and Claire and Martin Pendleton, young and newly married, arrive in Hong Kong. Claire takes a job as piano teacher to the daughter of Victor and Melody Chen, and soon begins an affair with Will. But the history of war and past relationships, deceptions and betrayals begin to weave themselves into their lives.
On the surface, this seemed like a great idea for a story. But I just don't feel like it was executed well. I never felt all that much for any of the characters in The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee, especially Claire, and this is one of the things that makes or breaks a book for me. I need to feel a connection to a character, or to at least feel like the characters were developed fully enough that I understand their motivation and feelings. But I didn't get that in this story.
There were many interesting ideas and characters. I found the historical details about Hong Kong during the war fascinating. And I acquired a better understanding of the culture there during the time leading up to the war, although I didn't enjoy the fact that every race or nationality seemed to be put down at one point or another. It seemed like everyone in the story was prejudiced ~ perhaps that was the norm in that time and place? And the overall mystery was a bit overdone. I figured out a big part of it very early on, although at the end I wasn't entirely clear on some things.
Overall, I'd say this book was just okay for me. I read the entire story, hoping for more at the end than I got. I did enjoy the character of Trudy, and Will at times. I just felt like it could have been much more than it was. It will be interesting to see how my book club's discussion about this one goes.
Reading group guide and discussion questions for The Piano Teacher
This review was written based on a copy of The Piano Teacher that I borrowed from the library.