NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A complex period tapestry inscribed with the age-old tragedy of love and death.”—The New York Times Book Review
“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”
In seventeenth-century China, in an elaborate villa on the shores of Hangzhou’s West Lake, Peony lives a sheltered life. One night, during a theatrical performance in her family’s garden, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow, the living world and the afterworld. Eventually expelled from all she’s known, Peony is thrust into a realm where hungry ghosts wander the earth, written words have the power to hurt and kill, and dreams are as vivid as waking life. Lisa See’s novel, based on actual historical events, evokes vividly another time and place—where three generations of women become enmeshed in a dramatic story, uncover past secrets and tragedies, and learn that love can transcend death. Peony in Love will make you ache in heart and mind for young Peony and all the women of the world who want to be heard.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.
Praise for Peony in Love
“Electrifying . . . a fascinating and often surprising story of women helping women, women hurting women and women misunderstanding each other.”—The Miami Herald
“See mines an intriguing vein of Chinese history . . . weaving fact and fiction into a dense romantic tapestry of time and place as she meditates on the meaning of love, the necessity of self-expression and the influence of art.”—Los Angeles Times
“A transporting read, to lost worlds earthly and otherwise.”—Chicago Tribune
“A quietly beautiful tale that sneaks into the reader’s heart . . . Not since Susie Salmon of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones has a ghostly narrator been as believable and empathetic.”—San Antonio Express-News
“There’s much here to be savored and a great deal to be learned.”—The Washington Post Book World
Set in 17th-century China, See's fifth novel is a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, a family saga and a work of musical and social history. As Peony, the 15-year-old daughter of the wealthy Chen family, approaches an arranged marriage, she commits an unthinkable breach of etiquette when she accidentally comes upon a man who has entered the family garden. Unusually for a girl of her time, Peony has been educated and revels in studying The Peony Pavilion, a real opera published in 1598, as the repercussions of the meeting unfold. The novel's plot mirrors that of the opera, and eternal themes abound: an intelligent girl chafing against the restrictions of expected behavior; fiction's educative powers; the rocky path of love between lovers and in families. It figures into the plot that generations of young Chinese women, known as the lovesick maidens, became obsessed with The Peony Pavilion, and, in a Werther-like passion, many starved themselves to death. See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, etc.) offers meticulous depiction of women's roles in Qing and Ming dynasty China (including horrifying foot-binding scenes) and vivid descriptions of daily Qing life, festivals and rituals. Peony's vibrant voice, perfectly pitched between the novel's historical and passionate depths, carries her story beautifully in life and afterlife.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Intense and Captivating
The followup to "Snowflower" is different but does not disappoint. Another beautiful rendering by Lisa See which places you intensely in the world of the main character. My heart was pounding as Peony took me through her life and captivated me with her emotion, desire and passion. Another beautiful story leaving me wanting the next book!
"Different than I thought it would be"
As I was reading I kept telling my SO that it was different than I thought it would be. Lisa See is my favorite author, my first book of hers being Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. This book had some interesting twists and turns, but overall I felt that the pacing was a little slow. I never truly felt connected to Peony, especially in the beginning where she felt more like a naive and selfish child. It's worth a read, but all in all it was okay.
Loved this one
After reading this book I had to order The Peony Pavillion, which Lisa See did research on. Lisa See always develops characters I fall in love with. I also read Pearl Bucks Peony. And, peonies are my favorite flower.