First, your teasers. My two favorite passages occurred a mere page apart:
“Quite by accident – except that it had to be fate interfering – he found the box with Liniang’s rolled-up self-portrait scroll.” p. 34
“Perhaps he was as afraid as I was that we’d be caught. Or perhaps he was breathing me in just as I was letting him come into my lungs, my eyes, my heart.” p. 35
Now, my thoughts.
Peony in Love was fantastic. It’s part historical fiction, part ghost story, part coming of age. It is a story about growing up, accepting changes, and most of all love – romantic love, sexual love, familial love. The greatest of which is probably the womanly love formed between mothers and daughters (which can also be the toughest love to recognize).
In the conversation with Lisa See at the end, she mentions that she wrote this to show that women (who may be been silenced) have not been silent throughout history. While there may be little record of it, women were always thinking, writing, creating. See also mentions that she believes women still struggle to have their voices heard. How many times do we find our husbands and boyfriends not really listening to us? How many times growing up did we ignore our mother’s request to clean our room and immediately obey our father’s. This actually sparked an interesting discussion between Ben and me. We have about as egalitarian a relationship as you can get, yet there may be traces of this in existence (then again, sometimes I don’t listen to Ben, too).
When I read this book, I didn’t realize that the characters were based on real people. I assumed some of the basis for the story was true – I figured The Peony Pavillion was a real book, but that was as far as I thought the history went. After finishing the book and reading the Author’s Note, I learned that the characters of Peony, Ze, Ti, and Wu Ren all existed and The Three Wive’s Commentary is real. This makes their story so much more compelling to me. Part of the reason I love Lisa See’s novels is because it is a chance to learn about Chinese history and culture. When the story intertwines with real history, it enhances that experience.
I loved Peony in Love even more than Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I can’t wait to get to Shanghai Girls.
Out of curiosity, has anyone read her earlier novels?