Melody
ISBN-13: 9780007286386
Publisher: HarperPress
Published: 2009
331 pgs




The year is 1951 when Claire Pendleton arrived into Hong Kong, together with her newly married husband Martin who had transferred there to oversee a water project. Claire's marriage to Martin is based more on convenience rather than love; one reason being to escape from her family and it is not like she has many options to choose.

She took up a job as a piano teacher to the daughter of the Chens, a wealthy Chinese family but Locket Chen is not that keen in playing. Intrigued with their extravagance lifestyle, Claire started to steal little things from Mrs Chen and enjoyed how those little luxuries brought some joy to her, even if it means she has to lie and wear them in fear. She then got acquainted with their chauffeur, Will Truesdale when the Chen family invited her and her husband to a party, and from there their relationship blossomed and turned into an affair.

The story then goes back to the 1940s when we would learn more about Will Truesdale's past, and more characters are being introduced. One of them is Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite whom Will has fallen in love with. Unfortunately, their relationship is a short-lived one due to the Japanese invasion and left many affected and deeply scarred . Will was left in an interment camp along with other foreigners but he had refused assistance from Trudy, since she was cast as an outsider due to her mixed race.

Some events happened thereafter which caused a strain between the Chens family and Will (for whatever happened I would not say) as it seemed the Chens harboured a deep secret that involved Trudy. And after the war, no one seemed to know the whereabouts of Trudy and one wondered if she was left dead by a vicious gendarmerie, who was anxious to get some information on the Crown Collection (a Chinese artifacts which is believed to be missing during the war).

However, there is not much mystery surrounding the artifacts as I felt the book focused more on the characters and their life before and after the war. I would say the relationships dominates the most in this story, mixed in with the cultures and some history. Towards the ending, the readers will learn about those characters who survived the war and what they did in the past will continue to haunt them in years to come.

Although The Piano Teacher is a beautifully well-written story, I felt there is not much explanations given on the relationship between Will and Claire. I am not even sure if they were in love in the first place, as it seemed both needed an escape from their unhappy past. Despite these, it is still an enjoyable read in my opinion.
31 Responses
  1. Julia Says:

    Great review, Melody! A well written book always plus for me..but it also the characters that would drew me in. So am not sure if this be for me, but I head over authors site and see her work :)


  2. Melody Says:

    Thanks, Julia!
    For your info, this is Janice's debut novel. Please let me know if you do get to it. :)


  3. Julia Says:

    Oh, I didn't know this her first book. Thanks for lettting me! :)


  4. Alice Teh Says:

    I do like the cover... Thanks for the review, Melody. I'm not sure I'll pick it up but definitely am aware of it now. :)


  5. Melody Says:

    Julia - No problem! :)

    Alice - I like the second cover better, the colour is so vibrant!


  6. Thank you for sharing your review Melody. I always felt inclined to read this book, but I knew it was shaky ground, as this type has the capability to go either way. I'm still not sure about it, but I might pick it up if I get the itch. :)


  7. Ladytink_534 Says:

    It does sound like a well-written story and the setting is very interesting but I'm not sure I would enjoy this one very much...


  8. Melody Says:

    Jessica - I hope you'll pick up this book. It's still a worthy read.

    Jen - You know, I quite like the Eastern meets Western style in this book. Quite refreshing.


  9. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    Is there enough reference to WWII to qualify for the WWII Reading Challenge? It sounds like a good read!


  10. violetcrush Says:

    I have heard a lot about this book. Glad you liked it. I love how the covers are so different from each other. I like the second one better :)


  11. I haven't read this and currently have no interest in reading it, but does this not sound a little like "The Painted Veil", by Somerset Maugham? In the broadest sense, obviously - the "piano teacher" plotline seems pretty exclusive to this book, but a lot seems fairly... similar.


  12. Diane Says:

    I have this one from the library right now and hope to get to it soon. I need to finish The Help; Stockett, first; loving this book.


  13. Dar Says:

    Great review Melody. I've seen a few reviews and they say the same thing about the relationship between Will and Claire. This is a book I'd like to read.


  14. Nymeth Says:

    There's a movie with this title that is based on a book, but it's a completely different story, and plus, this is new. But I was confused for a second there :P I didn't care for that movie at all, but this sounds like a book I'd really enjoy.


  15. naida Says:

    It sounds like a good read. Great review. I do like the cover too.
    I dont know if i'd enjoy this one though.
    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/


  16. Shana Says:

    Melody, I've been looking forward to your review of this one! I think it sounds like a good book.


  17. Matt Says:

    The premise of the book reminds me of W. Somerset Maugham's Painted Veil. I've had my eye on this one for a while. She's an author from Hong Kong and that makes the book a must read. :)


  18. Thank you for your wonderful review, Melody. I am really looking forward to reading this one. As you can see from my post today, I finally received my copy. :-) It will be interesting how I interpret Will and Claire's feelings for each other when I read it--if I find the same flaw that you did.


  19. Melody Says:

    Sandy - There aren't many WWII scenes so I'm not sure if it qualifies for the challenge you mentioned.

    Violet - I liked the second cover too. :)

    Anonymous Child - I haven't read The Painted Veil so I can't compare.

    Diane - I've heard a lot of great things about The Help so I'll definitely check that out! :)

    Dar - Thanks! I can't wait to read your thoughts if you get to it! :)

    Nymeth - Ah yes, I had read that book but find it okay. I haven't watched the movie though, but I don't think I'm keen in it.

    Naida - It's not a bad read IMO. Do let me know if you do get it! ;)

    Shana - I hope you'll read it soon! :)

    Matt - I read from the author's site that she was born in Hong Kong to Korean parents, and lived there until she was fifteen. She then left for boarding school in New Hampshire.

    Wendy - Thank you! :) I'm glad you've a copy of this book. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it soon.


  20. Beth F Says:

    I've really been meaning to read this. I generally like an Asian setting. Great review


  21. Melody Says:

    Beth - Thanks. I hope you'll enjoy it if you get to it. :)


  22. S. Krishna Says:

    I have this one on my shelf to read, hopefully I can get to it soon. Thanks for the review!


  23. Melody Says:

    Krishna - I can't wait to read your thoughts if you get to it.


  24. Matt Says:

    I'm definitely checking this one out. She is a graduate of Harvard College.


  25. Melody Says:

    Matt - I hope you'll enjoy this book. :)


  26. Matt Says:

    I've got the book but I'm saving it for my vacation in two weeks. My friend is actually reading my copy right now and from time to time he's sighing. I wonder if it's a good sign?

    The first paragraph of your review actually reminds me of The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. The marriage was also out of convenience and the couple moved to Hong Kong.


  27. Melody Says:

    Matt - I'm glad your friend is enjoying the book! :) I haven't read The Painted Veil but you can be sure I'll be looking out for this book as well!


  28. Kaye Says:

    Wow, I loved the Piano Teacher. I just was sucked into it immediately. For a debut novel, it is great. Janice is on B&N book club discussions all the month of April in the New Reads thread. I like your format. I came over here to read your TT and saw your review for this book and just had to read it. Good job! Now back to TT


  29. Melody Says:

    Kaye - I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this book as well. :)


  30. Great review! I liked the book, also. However, I do agree with what you said about Claire and Will. I liked his relationship with Trudy much more (:


  31. Melody Says:

    Faith - Thanks for visiting! I'm glad you enjoyed the book too! :)