emmejo, September 5, 2013 (view all comments by emmejo)
In 1941 Will arrives in Hong Kong and is swept into the elaborate social swirl where he meets beautiful, wealthy Trudy Liang and they begin an intense romance that is fractured and complicated by WWII.
A decade later, Claire arrives in Hong Kong to work for a family as their daughter's piano teacher and finds herself in the midst of a scandal left by Trudy and Will.
This book was a quick, engaging read, but none of the characters appealed to me. I can deal with that pretty well, focusing on the historical events and culture clash, but those who expect a character-driven story to involve likable characters will probably be frustrated.
Lee does an excellent job crafting this world, showing the many different circles of the societies that different characters move in.
Prentise Wylie, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Prentise Wylie)
Similar to "The Splendor of Silence" in its history of world war in 1942 affecting the "foreign" countries that British and Americans are living in ("Spendor" in Burma and India; "Piano Teacher" in Hong Kong) and the relations between people of different variations on the human race, this book also deeply conveys the moral, spiritual, social, cultural, sexual, political, government, economic, housing, and food practices, beliefs, and conflicts of various peoples.
I found the characters and story line vivid and believable, the dialogue natural, and the punctuation excellent (there are so many books with bad punctuation that detracts from the reading, that this is worth mentioning).
It is so wonderful to experience culture and history through the bodies and minds of seemingly real characters, so that we feel the truth of that history and culture, those people, in a way that carries on through time into our own present reality.
Lindsay Waite, August 9, 2012 (view all comments by Lindsay Waite)
I read this book quickly because I wanted to know how it ended (not usually the case). The Piano Teacher was interesting to me from the historical perspective. I knew little about Japan and the Chinese during WWII, and this book, set in Hong Kong, was an eye-opener. I liked the fact that the book moved between the early 1940s and 1950s, showing certain characters in both time frames. What fell flat for me was the development of Claire. Had there been more of a back story to explain her restlessness, pilfering, and her life after Will, I think it would have been more meaningful to me.
A new novel by the author of The Last Chinese Chef, a love story between a black musician and a gangster's translator set against Shanghais dazzling jazz age and the looming menace of World War II, and "a rich and thoroughly captivating read." (Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurais Garden)
“Historical fiction at its best.” —Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered
Sailing to Shanghai in 1936, Thomas Greene goes from playing classical piano for pennies in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with his own servants, the leader of a black jazz orchestra. Song Yuhua has been bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s toughest crime boss, but risks her life spying on him for the Communist Party. With Shanghai shattered by the Japanese invasion, Thomas and Song find one another and forge a bond neither can deny. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and war, they navigate the city’s growing dangers until the moment when they must cast their lots in Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.
In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war. Song Yuhua is refined and educated, and has been bonded since age eighteen to Shanghais most powerful crime boss in payment for her fathers gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party. Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghais final, impossible choice. In this stunningly researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese jazz age, but also weaves in a startling true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West. View the Trailer: #LINK<www.nicolemones.com>#
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