Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Peony In Love

Scheduling is always hard, but is especially hard in the summer. We found a night, only two weeks from the previous meeting, and amazingly everyone finished the book.

Peony In Love, by Lisa See is the follow up novel to her first and well liked bookd Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Set in China during the transition between the Ming and the Manchu dynasties (roughly 1644 give or take a day), PIL tells the story of a young woman who is enchanted by an opera and which sets in motion a lifetime of lessons about love and happiness.

The protagonist, Peony is young, (15) betrothed to a man she has never met and in love with a poet. While the story takes place over the course of 30 years or so her voice never really changes and while she does mature in some ways she remains fifteen.

General consensus was that P.I.L. was a quick read, an interesting view into the mythical beliefs of Chinese culture and the afterlife, but that many parts of the story were predictable, or maybe it's better to say that the plot points were extremely well foreshadowed.

We stopped to compare the isolation of women in 17th century China who lived a sequestered life and were hobbled by foot binding (photos) to the isolation of the women in our last book A Thousand Splendid Sons. Cultural acceptance of the caste of women as a lower less valued being appears to be universal. This book touches on the topic but isn't a study in the evils of inequality. The author addresses the issue but the women accept their fate as a part of life, although she does give us a character that is more than a little angry about the failure to value the ladies.