New York Times,
January 16, 2009
"Laced with intrigue... Readers will be enthralled by Lee's depiction of Will's relationships with his two lovers...and the unsparing way Lee unravels them."Full Review (PDF, 181KB) Plus, New York Times Mention (PDF, 83KB)
January 3, 2009
"Evocative, poignant and skillfully crafted, "The Piano Teacher" is more than an epic tale of war and a tangled, tortured love story. It is the kind of novel one consumes in great, greedy gulps, pausing (grudgingly) only when absolutely necessary." Full Review (PDF, 70KB)
January 18, 2009
"Song of sorrow: An aimless wife in Hong Kong begins an affair with a damaged man.... War. Love. Betrayal. The harsh lessons of history. These are big subjects for any veteran writer, and yet, in her first novel, Janice Y.K. Lee confronts them admirably." Full Review (PDF, 245KB)
January 26, 2009
"This cinematic tale of two love affairs in mid-century Hong Kong shows colonial pretensions tainted by wartime truths. Will Truesdale, a rootless, handsome Briton, arrives in the colony in 1941, and is swept up by Trudy Liang, the blithe and glamorous daughter of a Shanghai millionaire and a Portuguese beauty. They quickly become inseparable, their days spent in a whirl of parties and champagne, but when the Japanese invade, Will is interned and Trudy resorts to increasingly Faustian methods to survive. After the war, Claire Pendleton, the naïve wife of a British civil servant, arrives. She begins giving piano lessons to the daughter of a rich Chinese couple, and falls in love with their wounded and inscrutable driver: Will. Lee unfolds each story, and flits between them, with the brisk grace and discretion of the society she describes—a world in which horrors are adumbrated but seldom told." Full Review (PDF, 280KB)
January 7, 2009
"The past, both personal and political, can't be escaped in this atmospheric, finely wrought novel set in Hong Kong. Dealing with love, betrayal and the moral ambiguities of colonialism, it's told through two alternating narratives. In 1952, a provincial British newlywed moves to Hong Kong with a husband she barely knows. She gets involved with an older man, another British ex-pat, whose secrets unfold in flashbacks set a decade earlier during the brutal Japanese occupation. The author grew up in Hong Kong and, after working as an editor at Elle, returned to live there. Her city is as much a character as her international cast." Full Review (PDF, 52KB)
May 12, 2009
Historical Novelist by Accident
Wall Street Journal Cultural Conversation with Janice Lee (PDF, 230KB)
January 9, 2009
Q&A with Janice Lee; the debut author talks about her novel set in WWII. Full Interview (PDF, 126KB)
People, January 2009
"[a] shattering, immensely satisfying debut." [People Pick, 4 out of 4 stars] Full Review (PDF, 2.18MB)
Elle, January 2009
"Writer's Colony: New novelist Janice Lee's The Piano Teacher--this season's Atonement--is a first-class steamer ticket to a disappearing Hong Kong" Full Review (PDF, 2.9MB)
O, January 2009
"Pride and Privilege: War, love, betrayal—an exquisite fugue of a first novel" Full Review (PDF 1.27MB)
Good Housekeeping, January 2009
"Sensual and gripping, this polished debut follows an English bride as she arrives in post-WWII Hong Kong and proceeds to uncover the less savory side of expatriate life." Full Review (PDF 1.89MB)
Body + Soul, January 2009
"The book has a yin-yang aspect. There's the clash between what's happening on the surface (cocktail parties, piano lessons) and the hard realities of war bubbling up underneath. Lee's lovely novel makes this point well: that things are always more complicated than they first appear." Full Review (PDF 1.28MB)
Marie Claire, January 3, 2009
"In her debut novel, Lee tells two engrossing love stories, both involving the same man. Just hide your phone before cracking this one open - or risk calling your ex." Full Review (PDF, 1.1MB)
Vogue, February 2009
Vogue calls The Piano Teacher one of "[t]wo heartfelt debuts [that] illuminate WWII’s lesser-known chapters. As Seen in Vogue (PDF, 221KB)
"...impressive, gripping-to-the-end debut novel"
—Hallmark Magazine As Seen in Hallmark Magazine (PDF, 403KB)
January 25, 2009
"Lee leaves us with no didactic judgments, only the many pleasures of this intricate, remarkably assured, altogether enjoyable first novel.” Full Review (279KB, PDF)
January 9, 2009
“Writers of historical novels face a double challenge. They must accomplish fiction's primary task of illuminating human nature, while simultaneously presenting readers with an accurate portrayal of a bygone era. In her debut novel, The Piano Teacher, former Elle magazine editor Janice Y.K. Lee succeeds impressively on both fronts.” Full Review (PDF, 658KB)
January 16, 2009
"In desperate times, when survival is the only goal, an individual's true character is revealed. Janice Y.K. Lee's striking debut novel, The Piano Teacher, opens a window into life in Hong Kong during and after the Japanese invasion of World War II, where values are laid bare and individual choices have ramifications well beyond what anyone can imagine."
—The Oregonian Full Review (PDF, 241KB)
January 31, 2009
"Lee has simply written a gorgeous epic." Full Review (PDF, 564KB)
February 1, 2009
"...loyalty, love and faithfulness battle with patriotism and morality to alluring effect." Full Review (PDF, 79KB)
January 18, 2009
"Historical novel The Piano Teacher hits the right notes"
—Dallas Morning News Full Review (PDF, 94KB)
January 21, 2009
"…impossible to put down." Full Review (PDF, 186KB)
January 8, 2010
"Lee comes up with some tricky plot twists. Her story is potent — she writes with confidence."
—Dayton Daily News (Full Review)
January 14, 2010
"Lee's prose depicts the period's opulence and squalor, as well as the fragility of human emotions. Her eye for capturing details lends itself to her belief that a story can never have too much detail, but must retain accuracy."
—Indy Week (Full Review)
January 24, 2010
Striking a Chord with Readers
—The Boston Globe (Full Article)
"Rarely does one encounter a debut work as beguiling and assured as Janice
Lee’s The Piano Teacher. Rich with intrigue, romance, and betrayal, this
wonderfully written, utterly captivating novel dazzles with its sharp-eyed
renderings of beau monde Hong Kong as it is plunged into the crucible of war.
With its fascinating interplay of East and West and wide cast of effervescent
characters, especially the singularly haunting Trudy Liang, this is a truly
transporting—and indeed irresistible—work of fiction."
"This is a rare and exquisite story. It does exactly what a great novel should do – transports you out of time, out of place, into a world you can feel on your very skin."
"One of the most insightful, elegant and atmospheric novels I’ve read in a
long time. Janice Lee is nothing short of brilliant and her novel is impossible
to put down."
"Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A historical and romantic narrative, alternating between the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II and a time roughly ten years later that follows the tragic consequences of that occupation.
The central figure is Will Truesdale, who across this ten-year period is involved with two vastly different women. In 1952 he meets Claire Pendleton, the piano teacher of the title, who's come to Hong Kong with her dull and unimaginative husband, a civil engineer overseeing the building of a reservoir. Claire finds a position teaching Locket Chen, the ten-year-old daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, the latter a successful and Anglophilic businessman with a dark past. Will is the Chens' chauffeur, an anomalous position for a Westerner, but Victor well knows that having Will in this position elevates Victor's status in the Chinese community. Lee presents her narrative antiphonally, so the story frequently flashes back to Will's other lover, the beautiful Eurasian Trudy Liang, daughter of a Chinese father and a Portuguese beauty. Trudy is impulsive, pragmatic and strong—she's willing to do anything to guarantee that her relationship with Will survives the dire and dangerous time when the Japanese take over the government of Hong Kong. She submits herself to the will of the powerful Otsubo, who serves practically as a warlord. He's trying to recover a mysterious cache of priceless Chinese artifacts and is willing to engage in any activity—including torture and murder—to get what he wants. Only three people know the whereabouts of the trove, and this knowledge gives them power while at the same time putting them in danger. Despite Will's warning to Claire (" 'I don't like to love…You should be forewarned. I don't believe in it' "), the piano teacher is sucked into the maelstrom of his passion—and learns more than she expected to about the human implications of the dark events of the war.
A lush examination of East-West relations."
"In 1952 Hong Kong, Claire Pendleton, newly married to a bland postwar British government official, lucks into a job as piano teacher to the untalented young daughter of the powerful and wealthy Victor and Melody Chen. It's not long before she enters into a passionate, albeit emotionally thwarted affair with the Chens' driver, Will Truesdale. Lee then takes her readers back to 1941 Hong Kong, where Will's fiery love affair with the mysterious, fearless, provocative Trudy Liang (her mother was Portuguese, her father from Shanghai) dominates the run-up to disaster. In her fiction debut, Lee uses the snobbish insulation of British high society in Hong Kong to show the unraveling of a way of life that implodes with the invasion of the Japanese during World War II. Thrust from privilege into imprisonment virtually overnight, Lee's characters are caught up in the intrigue and collusion that were part of wartime survival. Her adept pacing slowly exposes the inevitability of tragedy that engulfs her characters. Highly recommended.-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI "
—Library Journal (starred review)