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Peony in Loveby Lisa See
Reading Group Guide
1. On page 76, Lisa See quotes the poet Han Yun, who wrote, “All things not at peace will cry out.” What do you think he meant by that? And in what ways does this inspire Peony and the other women writers in the novel?
2.What are the different kinds of love that Peony experiences? How does her love for Ren (as well as for her mother, father, grandmother, Yi, and even Willow) change through the years? Have you had similar experiences in your life?
3.Anticipating her first meeting with Ren in the Moon-Viewing Pavilion, Peony states: “Monthly bleeding doesnt turn a girl into a woman, nor does betrothal or new skills. Love had turned me into a woman” (p. 49). Is Peonys statement true?
4.Peony is filled with doubt after meeting Ren-doubt about their relationship, doubt about ever finding love, and doubt about being a good mother. What is the source of this doubt and how does it grow within Peony?
5.In the nights of watching The Peony Pavilion, Peony has many visions of the man she will marry, and many visions of “her poet.” Why isnt she able to make the connection that both men are one and the same? What signs does she overlook and why?
6.On page 94, Peony thinks shes being dressed for her wedding, but instead shes taken to the courtyard to die. Peony is certainly surprised by this turn of events. Were you? How does this moment affect Peonys future actions and her feelings about her family? How do you feel about this practice?
7.Many men have told Lisa See that they dont like the idea of the Chinese afterworld, where your relatives are still your relatives and your position remains the same as it was in life. Many women, on the other hand, have told her that they find the idea of the Chinese afterworld comforting. They want to be united with their families in the afterworld and still be able to interfere in the living world. What are the differences and similarities between the Chinese afterworld and Western religions concept of heaven and hell? Which would you prefer-for yourself and for your loved ones-and why?
8.We see a difference in Peonys actions after Ze marries Ren and again after Ze dies. Do you see redemption here for Peony?
9.In what ways is mother love, from both a mothers perspective and a daughters perspective, explored? What does Peony learn about mother love, and in what ways does she experience it herself? What aspects of mother love still hold true for mothers and daughters today?
10.How does what happened during the Cataclysm change depending on whos telling the story?
11.Peony in Love shows the strength of women and womens friendship, but in what ways does it also show the dark shadow side of women, whether in the womens chambers, between a mother and daughter, between wives, or even between friends?
12.Peony in Love is very much a tale of secrets and the power secrets can exercise over others. What are the secrets? Who is affected by the secrets and how do they change through the story?
13.You have read about three generations of women, and also about the people around them-both male and female. Of all the characters, which do you feel you are most like, and why? Are there any people like these characters in your life today?
14.Often what we hate most about ourselves-our weight, our tendency toward selfishness, our vanity, etc.- is what we are most critical of in others. Trace the progress of Peonys relationship with Tan Ze-through life together in the Chen Family Villa and then in the afterlife. In what ways are Peony and Tan Ze alike, and in what ways are they different? Why do they need each other, and how do they serve one another? Do you have similar symbiotic relationships in your life, and in what ways would you expect those relationships to change in the afterlife?
15.How do Peonys experiences as a living girl and then as a hungry ghost parallel Liniangs experiences in The Peony Pavilion?
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