I read Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fana couple of years ago as part of an online book club I joined. It was not a book I ever would have picked out myself, but I have to say it was a wonderful read. I truly enjoyed it.
So, when I was at the library last week and I saw Lisa See’s other book, Peony in Love on the bookshelf, I grabbed it up (not like I needed it since I have so many books at home waiting to be read. But, the mood struck me the right way and I took it home). It was nothing like I expected….
When I read the inside cover, it didn’t connect with me, I guess, what I was going to find in this book. I thought I was looking at a good historical fiction romance. I got that plus so much more. It turned out to be a historical romance ghost story. Who knew??
**a little bit of spoiler**
This novel is based on historical events with a focus on women’s writings in China during the seventeenth century. The main character, Peony, is a 16-year-old girl who is about to enter into an arranged marriage with a man she hasn’t met. She is an educated girl who is obsessed with the opera The Peony Pavilion (which is a real opera). This opera is the story of a girl who dies from love sickness but is brought back to life by her true love. Peony also wants true love and finds it in a young man she meets one night while her father is hosting guests in their home. The two fall in love without exchanging names. Peony becomes lovesick and no longer wants to marry her intended (even though, it turns out her intended is the man she met). Peony stops eating and dies right after she finds out who her intended husband is. This is only the beginning of the story….
The writing in this novel is beautiful, just like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It also describes this time in China, for women, well. I felt like I could really understand their torment and longing. I guess I just wasn’t ready for all the “ghost” stuff. Although, after I accepted that it was going to be that kind of story, I started to enjoy it more. It seems lately I’ve liked the beginning and end of books, just not the middle (see Eat, Pray, Love review).
Peony grows up a lot after she dies. I know, that sounds weird. But, this book seems to be a coming of age story in the afterworld. In addition, a lot of family secrets are revealed and dealt with by all the family members. It left me feeling a little sad that things in a family were so different than the characters really thought. Each character has to deal with disappointment and forgiveness. Many issues are resolved, which does lend itself to a satisfying ending after such a difficult journey.
I would recommend this book. Like I said, it is well done and it addresses women’s issues in an interesting manner. I didn’t always understand how some of the women acted, but I didn’t enjoy Peony’s journey. Just be prepared that it’s not the happiest novel ever. Although, all’s well that ends well.