Archive | April, 2012

Book Review: Peony in Love by Lisa See

18 Apr

Peony in LoveMy Rating:  2 out of 5 stars.

This book was wayyyyy too much for me.  Most of it is told from the perspective of a dead girl in 17th Century China.  Very transcendental.  I hope I’m even using that word right.

I have read several Lisa See novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls, both of which I really enjoyed.  Unfortunately I did not feel the same about this book at all. 

It actually starts out okay.  It’s about a girl named Peony who lives in China in the 17th century, falls in love with a stranger and does not think she can handle having to marry someone else (pre-arranged) and let her one true love slip through her fingers. 

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I will leave it at that, but I will tell you that it gets OUT of control with the afterlife nonsense. I will tell you that most of the book is told from the perspective of a dead person.  Another thing I found weird was that there is a famous Chinese opera entitled Peony in Love (which really exists) and there are parallels between the character of this opera and Peony in this book.  But it’s not the retelling of the opera.  I hope your head hasn’t exploded yet. 

I still adore Lisa See, especially because I do like Asian historical fiction and she’s great at it.  I would recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan any day.  But this one not so much.

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Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

17 Apr

Bel CantoMy Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

While they never say exactly where this story takes place, I read on the author’s website that it is loosely based on the 1996 hostage situation in Lima, Peru where several politicians, entertainers, and diplomats were held hostage by a terrorist group during an event hosted at the Japanese ambassador’s house. 

This novel begins with the hostages coming into the private residence of the Vice-President (of some country in South or Latin America) who is hosting a birthday party for a Japanese businessman.  Hostages come in, chaos ensues.  For a while.  After several weeks, the hostages remain, but the chaos subsides and a tentative relationship begins to form between the guests themselves and with their captors.

This book makes a GREAT book club book.  There’s many facets and characters to discuss.  I found the fixation on Roxane Cross a bit unrealistic, although I liked that angle.  It was just a bit too much.  The situation is unbelievable yet realistic at the same time.  And while the plot lulls in a few spots the ending is worth it. 

The concept of the translator interwoven in this story was also such a wise commentary on globalization.  So many different languages that posed a barrier some of the time yet was irrelevant sometimes. 

It is rare that a novel really digs into human nature in the way this book does.  It’s really a reflection on relationships and human interactions in a way you rarely see in novels.

If we were revising the reading list for high schoolers, I would recommend this one be on it.