Monday, August 1, 2011

The Piano Teacher

The dust jacket synopsis of this book is very short, and purposely doesn't give many clues to the story you're about to read. Yes it is the story of an Englishman and a Eurasian socialite in 1942, and begins as a story of socialites and the parties and the intermingling of the Europeans and the Asians in this dynamic colony. Then as the story progresses World War II escalates and the Japanese occupy Hong Kong. Non Chinese were seemingly given ample warning and opportunity to leave Hong Kong but many including Will did not and ended up bring detained and confined to a former brothel (now internment camp) packed to the gills with foreigners. Trudy, being half Chinese, is still on the outside and has befriended the Japanese and even manages to get Will out of the confinement periodically.

So where is the piano teacher in all this? Her name is Claire. She is a recently married Englishwoman who has moved to the Far East with her husband, Martin. They met briefly before he was sent to Hong Kong for
business and they seem to barely know each other when they get married. She starts teaching piano to Locket the young daughter of a wealthy Chinese family to help pass the time. Will is their driver. This part of the story takes place in the 50s but the author goes back and forth between the two time periods, Will being the connection between the two women. For most of the story I wondered why an Englishman would be the driver for a Chinese man. While I understood that for the Chinese man this was quite a status symbol for him, I didn't understand til the very end why Will had agreed to do it. And I won't give it away.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but in some ways felt that the ending was a bit rushed, tying up loose ends. There were a couple of passages I had to reread to make sure I hadn't missed something, as the author continued on as if she had revealed some explanation of these intertwined relationships, but often it was a very basic sentence.

There were many times I wished she had developed certain characters further, but for a debut novel, I enjoyed it, and look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

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