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Pondering the pages ~ Peony in Love by Lisa See

February 20, 2009

Today’s pondering:

shanghaigirls1I haven’t done one of these in the last couple of weeks as I’ve been booked with By the Chapter. Now I’m back to reading with no real commitments till mid-March or so. As I got Shanghai Girls by Lisa See in the mail from Katie at Random House last week I decided to partner it with Peony in Love. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for my f2f book club last year and we all loved it.

peonyinloveShanghai Girls and Peony in Love are totally unrelated but I decided to dive into some more of China’s earlier history first probably because I was so taken with Snow Flower. So I picked up Peony in Love this afternoon and I’m already over a third of the way through it. The lead character, Peony, is 15 years old almost 16, months away from an arranged marriage and obsessed with the play, The Peony Pavilion. She leads a very sheltered life never having been beyond the walled gardens of her home. She spends all her time in the company of women. Except for her father there’s been no exposure to men beyond the occasional unintended chance meeting.

Her 16th birthday is coming up and she misguidedly believes her father has planned a big celebration in her honor, even though birthdays aren’t usually recognized until age 50, including a 3-night production of her favorite opera. As women are kept separate from men, the standard of the day, Peony and her companions hear and watch the play while gathered in a screened off area of the villa compound. While peering through cracks in the screen Peony spies a very handsome, intriguing young man. As the play and the night progresses she steps out for a breath of fresh air into another pavilion and a chance encounter with the man she spied earlier. Over the next 3 days the two continue to slip away and into love. The celebration comes to an end, guests leave and Peony pines for the man she loves but can’t have. I’ve come to the point where destiny and fate take over.

Once again Ms. See has captured the feelings and emotions of place and time. The people come alive as we follow their journeys through these pages. Duty rules above all else and love, at this point, is not part of the picture. I’m as captivated by Peony in Love as I was by Snow Flower. After the finishing the first section of this book I looked up The Peony Pavilion in Wikipedia (link above). I had a bit of trouble following what was happening in the opera so having the information was helpful in understanding this book’s story line. 


A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~ Edward P. Morgan


  1. February 21, 2009 3:17 am

    It seems to me that many book bloggers are getting Shanghai Girls by Lisa See these days! I wish I was so lucky. Anyway, Peony in Love has been on my wishlist basically since it came out. I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. You have compelled me to search for it with more enthusiasm, Marcia!
    Keep an eye on your mailbox in March 🙂

  2. February 21, 2009 6:30 am

    I love books set in Asia – I think because the cultures are so different from ours – so I’ve been wanting to read this one. I’m glad to see it’s good.
    It gets better with every page I turn. While different from Snow Flower it’s just as intriguing, especially the culturally aspects.

  3. February 22, 2009 5:10 pm

    I have Peony in Love and have not had time to read it yet. Now that you have reviewed it I will have to get to it sooner. It sounds great. Thanks Marcia.

    • March 4, 2009 4:25 pm

      It’s a good one. Better dig it out of the TBR pile sooner than later.

  4. February 23, 2009 3:27 am

    Last year I was lucky enough to be in a month long, online book club for Peony In Love and Lisa See joined us. It was a small group of only about 10 people but it was amazing! I had some difficulty with parts of the book too and she walked us through it all. What a great experience she provided us. She also discussed her new book and we got to discuss it with her. She thanked us for the chats and said we even helped her form some new ideas. She said she would mention us in the acknowledgments. I assumed she meant the club in general but another member of the club received an ARC and claimed we’re mentioned by name!! I’ll have to see it for my own eyes but just being in the club was something I’ll never forget. I requested an ARC from her site but not sure if I’ll be able to get one. It sounds like another hit for Lisa See!

    • March 4, 2009 4:26 pm

      What a wonderful experience and lucky you!

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