Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peony in Love by Lisa See (2007)

You are going to LOVE this book - I promise!

Based on historical records, Lisa See crafts a fascinating love story set in China in the tumultuous years between the Ming and Quing dynasties. Peony, a very sheltered only child, watches a performance of the contentious play "The Peony Pavilion" and meets a stranger "her poet" and falls in love. Not realizing that this man was the one chosen from infancy to be her husband, Peony dreads the day of her marriage, and pines away. Five days before the wedding, she does of "love-sickness" - and enters the Underworld. We follow the ghostly Peony as she watches over her almost husband, Wu Ren and his two successive wives, Ze and Yi. Peony, Ze and Yi form as sisterhood as they struggle to write a commentary on "The Peony Pavilion" and how it has shaped and changed their lives.

Peony in Love would be a intriging book club choice, as it deals with many highly discussable topics:
  • the role of women in society
  • the nature of marriage
  • the types of love: carnal, prideful, deep-heart, selfish, maternal, familial, etc
  • the Chinese view of afterlife, and the relationships between the living, ghosts and the ancestors
  • the affects of education for women
  • the relationship of "sister-wives"
  • the transforming power of literature

And listen to this quote about a seventeenth century Chinese women's book club:

" The members of the Banana Garden Five had come together by choice... they bravely explored deep emotions, even when they were grim... They had formed a sisterhood of friendship and writing, and then they built an intellectual and emotional community of women throughout the country through reading. In looking for solace, dignity, and recognition, they brought their quest to other women who still lived behind locked gates or were being pushed by the the Manchus." (Peony in Love, pg. 206)

This book has gotten lots of great reviews; discussion questions are readily available and a Chinese menu is already brewing in the back of my mind. Lisa See has also written: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Dragon Bones, The Interior, Flower Net and On Gold Mountain.


  1. I just read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and it was amazing! Do you own this book? If so, can I borrow it? After I finish Gone with the Wind, of course...

  2. Sure thing - you want me to via Jon-Mike or is it quicker to just pass it to you at the next book club? Hey - write me a review on SF&theSF - I've heard good things!

  3. Thanks Tessa. I'll get it from you at the next meeting - I need every single second until then to finish GWTW!


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