Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review - The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Y. K. Lee

Title: The Piano Teacher: A Novel
Author: Janice Y. K. Lee
Year: 2009
Page: 328
Genre: Fiction - Historical

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? No
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? Hong Kong
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
In the sweeping tradition of The English Patient, a gripping tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong. 

First Sentence:
It started as an accident.
Why did I pick this book?
It was part of book club read. Actually I suggested it as a pick, after reading numerous good reviews on different blogs. I was really interested in in as I lived in Hong Kong for 13 years, and played the piano, so I felt like I could relate to the book. This book eventually was voted to be part of this month's book club choice.

My thoughts:
  • Meh. Why did I waste my time? I was so looking forward to it as I wanted to read another good historical fiction ("The Help" was a great read, and I usually don't like historical fiction). I thought the combination of a story setting in Hong Kong and something about the piano would make me like it a little bit at least!
  • Seriously, after I read it, I thought, what was the point of the story? What was the author trying to say? And I couldn't think of a good reason... to me, the author wanted to pack too much into a book, and because of that, everything was just left hanging and not gone into depth enough - it had a somewhat love triangle (I won't even call it a romance), a mystery of the Crown Collection, expats / high society living in Hong Kong, before / after the WWII, a twist about the identity of one of the minor characters, etc etc etc...
  • I don't even know why the title was chosen as that wasn't even a big part of the story
  • Some of the actions by the characters made you go huh? What did that add to the story (for those who had read it - it's about Claire and what happened in the first chapter - wasn't really explained)
  • The characters weren't likable either. 
  • Some chapters were quite choppy, and the writing style wasn't consistent throughout the book. I caught myself re-reading the lines several times to see if I really read what I thought I read. It was almost like the author wanted to reveal something big, but it ended up being pretentious and confusing. (I should've noted the page numbers, but forgot)
  • The love triangle wasn't that great - they happened too easily and I don't see how they could be so memorable
  • The mystery/twist also wasn't that shocking
  • I was hoping to read more about how WWII and its brutality. It touched on it a bit but not a whole lot.
  • I just felt like I wasted my time reading this - it has potential but everything was just left hanging instead. In fact, it probably would have been a better story if it was just about Trudy and Will, and leave the part about Claire. But then, since Claire was the piano teacher, the title would have to be changed! Not that it is a good title for the current story... 

    Rating: 1 Star

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading


    1. I have been going back and forth about whether or not to read this one. I am sorry it was so disappointing to you. Did the other members of your book club enjoy it?

    2. Out of the 12-15 people (I didn't count, so going by estimation), maybe 2-3 people thought it was entertaining enough, a couple couldn't finish it, but overall feeling was they didn't like it. It's not a difficult read (language wise) though. I would've given up if I wasn't the one who nominated the book (there is no rule that you must finish the book, and I abandon books quite often, but just felt like I should finish this one!)

      Most people did learn something new, e.g. like what expats life were like in Hong Kong then as most didn't know about that (neither did I). I just wish she went into more details than just breezed through it.

      There are quite a few positive reviews about this book, so I'd recommending finding those reviews and decide for yourself! I can be quite critical if you haven't noticed already :)

    3. I had such high hopes for this one, but after all the mixed reviews, I'll probably pass. Especially since the whole WWII aspect of the story seems muted. I'll get your review on the WWII book reviews page on War Through the Generations soon.

    4. I definitely think there are better WWII books out there. It's interesting to read one NOT about the holocaust though. I just wish it focused on the war a bit more.

    5. I felt the same Meh! Feeling about the book:

    6. @bibliojunkie - thanks for the link to your review! Glad I'm not the only one, especially when there are quite a few positive reviews out there. I feel bad giving a bad review but gotta be honest...

    7. Honesty is the best policy. Although naturally I am a very receptive and tolerant reader, but some books just irk me enough to want to abandon it!

      Great stuff!

    8. @bibliojunkie - I agree honesty is the best policy. I just feel bad to give a bad review, because I know it takes an author a lot of time and effort to write a book, and that it's a huge accomplishment (if it was so easy, I would've written lots of books already :) I guess I just wonder why some meh or just okay books get so much attention/publicity, whereas I am sure there are lots of great books that didn't even get published... I suppose it's probably a case of 'right time, right place' kinda thing.