I truly enjoyed Lisa See’s novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, so I looked forward to reading Peony in Love. I was not disappointed. Peony in Love is a wonderful read for those who, like me, enjoy historical fiction that is entertaining, intriguing, and elucidating.
Peony in Love is the story of a young Chinese girl from the 1600’s who becomes entranced with the opera The Peony Pavilion. This story takes over her waking moments and her own life, and death, parallels the story of the opera. Peony, our heroine, goes from being a teenage girl betrothed to a stranger, to a “lovesick maiden”, to a wandering and “hungry” ghost, all the while telling her story and narrating her journey. Even though she is dead, she strives to complete and publish her writings and analysis of the Peony Pavilion opera, using human sources.
Intriguing – yes – but what fascinated me is that so much of this story is based on fact. Without going into too much of the historical details, believe me when I write that there really was a Peony Pavilion opera, a cult of “lovesick maidens, and a person that the character of Peony is based on who contributed to a book about that opera. Even more interesting, there were thousands of published women poets and writers during this period of the mid 1600’s in China, but sadly very little is left of their writings today.
See tells her story with her typical lush and wonderful writing. Her word choice is always spot on. Her depictions are vivid and her characters developed to the point where you feel that they are real. This is a beautiful, poignant story which a reader will not soon forget.
I have to give it my coveted 5 Stars award!! I got my copy from the library, but might need to purchase it!