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Peony in Love

Cover of Peony in Love

Peony in Love

A Novel
by Lisa See
Borrow

The latest creation from the author of the New York Times bestseller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, received a starred review in Publishers' Weekly ... "Peony's vibrant voice, perfectly pitched between the novels historical and passionate depths, carries her story beautifully—in life and afterlife."

"I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret."

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen.

Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow—as Lisa See's haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes listeners back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed. PEONY IN LOVE explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love and addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

The latest creation from the author of the New York Times bestseller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, received a starred review in Publishers' Weekly ... "Peony's vibrant voice, perfectly pitched between the novels historical and passionate depths, carries her story beautifully—in life and afterlife."

"I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret."

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen.

Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow—as Lisa See's haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes listeners back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed. PEONY IN LOVE explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love and addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Excerpt from Chapter 1- Riding the Wind

    Two days before my sixteenth birthday, I woke up
    so early that my maid was still asleep on the floor at the foot of
    my bed. I should have scolded Willow, but I didn't because I
    wanted a few moments alone to savor my excitement. Beginning tonight,
    I would attend a production of The Peony Pavilion mounted in our garden.
    I loved this opera and had collected eleven of the thirteen printed versions
    available. I liked to lie in bed and read of the maiden Liniang and her
    dream lover, their adventures, and their ultimate triumph. But for three
    nights, culminating on Double Seven--the seventh day of the seventh
    month, the day of the lovers' festival, and my birthday--I would actually
    see the opera, which was normally forbidden to girls and women. My father
    had invited other families for the festivities. We'd have contests and
    banquets. It was going to be amazing.
    Willow sat up and rubbed her eyes. When she saw me staring at her,
    she scrambled to her feet and offered good wishes. I felt another flutter of
    anticipation, so I was particular when Willow bathed me, helped me into
    a gown of lavender silk, and brushed my hair. I wanted to look perfect; I
    wanted to act perfectly.
    A girl on the edge of sixteen knows how pretty she is, and as I looked
    in the mirror I burned with the knowledge. My hair was black and silky.
    When Willow brushed it, I felt the strokes from the top of my head all the
    way down my back. My eyes were shaped like bamboo leaves; my brows
    were like gentle brushstrokes limned by a calligrapher. My cheeks glowed
    the pale pink of a peony petal. My father and mother liked to comment on
    how appropriate this was, because my name was Peony. I tried, as only a
    young girl can, to live up to the delicateness of my name. My lips were full
    and soft. My waist was small and my breasts were ready for a husband's
    touch. I wouldn't say I was vain. I was just a typical fifteen-year-old girl. I
    was secure in my beauty but had enough wisdom to know it was only
    fleeting.
    My parents adored me and made sure I was educated--highly educated.
    I lived a rarefied and precious existence, in which I arranged flowers,
    looked pretty, and sang for my parents' entertainment. I was so
    privileged that even my maid had bound feet. As a small girl, I believed
    that all the gatherings we held and all the treats we ate during Double
    Seven were a celebration for me. No one corrected my mistake, because I
    was loved and very, very spoiled. I took a breath and let it out slowly--
    happy. This would be my last birthday at home before I married out, and I
    was going to enjoy every minute.
    I left my room in the Unmarried Girls' Hall and headed in the direction
    of our ancestral hall to make offerings to my grandmother. I'd spent
    so much time getting ready that I made a quick obeisance. I didn't want to
    be late for breakfast. My feet couldn't take me as fast as I wanted to go, but
    when I saw my parents sitting together in a pavilion overlooking the garden,
    I slowed. If Mama was late, I could be late too.
    "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public," I heard my mother say.
    "I'm even concerned for my sisters-in-law. You know I don't encourage
    private excursions. Now to bring outsiders in for this performance . . ."
    She let her voice trail off. I should have hurried on, but the opera
    meant so much to me that I stayed, lingering out of sight behind the
    twisted trunks of a wisteria vine.
    "There is no public here," Baba said. "This will not be some open affair
    where women disgrace themselves...

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Janet Song's lovely smoky voice is the perfect medium for this deeply compelling story, inspired by real events in seventeenth-century China. Peony is a cloistered daughter of the prosperous Chen family in the years just following the bloody end of the Ming Dynasty and the ascension of the Manchus. Her obsession with the iconic opera THE PEONY PAVILLION, about a girl much like herself who dies of love for a man she's forbidden to marry, sets this fascinating tale in motion. Song inhabits Peony with such subtlety and grace that you are only rarely aware that acting is occurring; instead you seem to live inside Peony's head, looking directly at her gorgeous, haunted, and vanished world. An outstanding performance and a flawless production. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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