Sunday, February 1, 2009

"The Piano Teacher"

Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong and graduated from Harvard College. A former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines, she currently lives in Hong Kong.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Piano Teacher, and reported the following:
It was hot, hot, hot. The sun hid behind clouds for brief moments and then blazed out again...

"Tell me your story," she said, after allowing herself a minute to digest what that meant. She was still vibrating with the strangeness of the situation--that she was out at the beach with a man, intentions unknown.

"I was born in Tasmania, of Scottish stock," he said mockingly, as if he were starting his own autobiography. He sat up and crossed his legs--a swami.

This is the part of the book where Claire goes to the beach with Will. Claire Pendleton is a provincial young newlywed from England who has come to Hong Kong with her husband. She takes a job as a piano teacher to a young Chinese girl, the daughter of a wealthy Chinese couple. Will Truesdale works for the Chinese family as a chauffeur, an unusual situation as he is English, and even more so because he is reticent and difficult. The two meet and slowly start to come together, an awkward, sometimes hostile dance.

The Piano Teacher alternates between two time periods. The 1950s, when Will and Claire meet, and a decade earlier when Will himself first comes to Hong Kong and meets Trudy Liang, a vivacious, beautiful Eurasian socialite, right as the Japanese prepare to invade Hong Kong. The Piano Teacher is a story of the war and what happened to these people, who led lives of enormous privilege in Hong Kong, lives that were changed dramatically by the events of the war.
Listen to an interview with Janice Y. K. Lee and an excerpt of The Piano Teacher.

Read an excerpt from The Piano Teacher, and learn more about the book and author at Janice Y. K. Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue