Customer Reviews for

The Piano Teacher

Average Rating 3.5
( 208 )
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(50)

4 Star

(53)

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(62)

2 Star

(31)

1 Star

(12)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

16 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

The Piano Teacher

Two days ago I thought my review of this book would be quite different than it is. Two days ago I was on page 113 of this book and I was getting frustrated with the vapid characters who were either spending all their time acting the part of the privileged upper class E...
Two days ago I thought my review of this book would be quite different than it is. Two days ago I was on page 113 of this book and I was getting frustrated with the vapid characters who were either spending all their time acting the part of the privileged upper class English ex-pats in Hong Kong or (in Claire's case) stealing trinkets. Even the war-time surrender of Hong Kong to the Japanese seemed only a minor inconvenience to these people. However, a mere 13 pages later, the story rapidly grows teeth.
The Piano Teacher tells the story of two separate love affairs in the life of English ex-pat Will Truesdale. The two events are separated by a span of 12 years. In the 1940s, Will is new to Hong Kong and in love with a young Eurasian heiress, Trudy. They fill their days and nights with parties and other pleasant diversions. Even the war does little to affect their lifestyle, until the Japanese decide to put all the "enemy civilians" in interment camps. Will goes into the camp, but Trudy denies her British citizenship and remains free. From this point on, the story turns into a tragically human story of love, betrayal, and loss.
In the 1950s, Will has an affair with a young married woman, Claire. However, Will and Claire's affair simply provides the framework for the bigger picture of what ultimately happened to Will and Trudy during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.

posted by Readingrat on January 11, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

This book Wasn't Music to My Ears

The Piano Teacher is boring. The characters are whiny and I didn't care what happened to them. The information about Hong Kong is interesting; but the plot is weak and disjointed. I recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweeet insted.

posted by huckfinn37 on April 17, 2010

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ONE TO THINK ABOUT!

    It is a love story first and foremost but this poignant story within a story is so deep with the horrors of war and what it does to the people involved makes it compelling. What would YOU do to live another day? Would you want to be put to the test?
    This is a very meaningful novel about the choices we make and the people we love. Some are noble and good and some are unfortunate. This book is thought-provoking and very interesting. The author's research made the setting and events believable. It is a book readers can sink their teeth into and think about long after having finished it.
    In the early 50's, Claire Pendleton, a young English woman, finds work teaching piano to the daughter of a wealthy Hong Kong family only to find herself attracted to their British driver, Will. Her curiosity about her lover's past leads to uncovering his story of how he and those around him survived the Japanese occupation during WWII. The story within the story goes back to 1941, just before the Japanese Bombing of Pearl Harbor when the Americans join the war and then the Japanese invade Hong Kong. In the pre-war months, an Englishman, Will meets and begins to keep company with Trudy Liang, a Eurasian girl with a very interesting and carefree lifestyle. He becomes smitten with her against his better judgment. They fall in love, but it is a love affair that is doomed.
    This is a good one, one to be enjoyed but also to get a feel for "meaning". One to think about!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    'SHE, HERSELF, HAD CHANGED IN HONG KONG..."

    Seldom have I been so captivated, so thoroughly absorbed by a novel. This skillful author's style is easy, so unaffected that one is immediately lost in the atmosphere she creates, transported by her descriptions. You feel the moist heat of the day on your skin, inhale the rich fragrance of jasmine, see the harbor frosted with stars, and shiver with fear in the face of torture or death. To read The Piano Teacher is to enter another world, a world that soon becomes as true as your own. You are immersed in her words, your heart is touched, and your senses engaged.<BR/> <BR/> Janice Y. K. Lee's narrative alternates between decades. It is 1952 when the recently married Claire Pendleton arrives in Hong Kong. Her husband, Martin, is an engineer who is to oversee the building of a reservoir. He's a rather dull sort to Claire, "She was not so attracted to him, but who was she to be picky...." Thus she had accepted his proposal.<BR/><BR/> She finds Hong Kong quite to her liking, and takes a job with the wealthy Chen family simply to pass the time. She will teach their daughter, Locket, how to play the piano.<BR/><BR/> Will Truesdale, an Englishman, arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1940s. He soon met the elegant Trudy Laing, a striking, enigmatic Eurasian girl. She was the belle of Hong Kong, one who loved beautiful clothes, expensive parties, and to tease. Will fell madly in love. Their liaison was cut short by the invasion of the Japanese. <BR/><BR/> In short time Will, along with other English, American and Dutch, are sent to an interment camp where horror upon horror is visited upon them. Trudy is left to fend for herself in a war torn city, attempting to do so by ingratiating herself with Otsubo, the vicious head of the gendarmerie. She pleads with Will to let her use influence to get him out of the camp. He refuses, whether due to honor or fear he does not know.<BR/><BR/> After the war he meets Claire who learns to care for him little knowing his past and what an effect it has had upon him. Or, for that matter does she know of how the Chan family has impacted his life.<BR/><BR/> Lee has adroitly reconstructed pages of history peopling them with fictional characters who make choices for good or ill under the most dire circumstances. The Piano Teacher is not to be forgotten. Janice Y. K. Lee's writing is to be celebrated.<BR/><BR/> Highly recommended.<BR/><BR/> - Gail Cooke

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    The Piano Teacher

    It is so hard to believe that this is a debut novel. I found it wonderfully written and I was drawn in immediately. The story starts out in 1952 as we are introduced to Claire Pendleton, recent arrival in Hong Kong with her much older husband, Martin. Claire has been hired by the socially prominent Chen family to teach Locket Chen the piano. When the Chen family invites Claire and her husband to a party, she meets Will Truesdale, the Chen chauffer. The Chen family and Will Truesdale figure prominently in this novel from the beginning to the end. <BR/><BR/>The story then goes back and forth from 1941 to 1953 as the characters are introduced in preparation for possible invasion by the Japanese. With the use of flashback mode and differing points of view, we see the growth in the characters and how the war deeply affects them all. Will¿s importance is slowly revealed when the reader is taken back to 1941 and the beginning of his passionate affair with Trudy Liang, a young, spoiled Eurasion. Trudy has numerous connections with the Hong Kong community and has a tremendous emotional impact on Will. <BR/><BR/>Written with exquisite detail as to location, the reader can immerse themselves into the environs of Hong Kong. It is easy to visualize the center with its European, classical style building and yet, not far away, the local market with its narrow alley ways and frenetic activity amid smoky stalls and clamorous noise. I felt like I was walking with Claire as she became familiar with her new home. With Les's seamless segueing between decades, the character development is tremendous. The characters are so well fleshed out as to emotion and vulnerability, the reader will feel as if they are truly alive. Their emotions and feelings just seem to leap off the page. <BR/><BR/>Lee unfolds each complex layer bit by bit without missing a beat. When the lives of all the characters come to a point of convergence, the past haunts the present in the many intertwined relationships. Alliances forged during the war will have long reaching consequences long after the war is over. People who had high positions now are brought to new lows, the war being the great equalizer. It all comes down to a matter of survival and the lengths people will go to cope with the horrors and atrocities of war. <BR/><BR/>There are so many elements in the telling of this story: romance, loyalty, betrayal, secrets, history along with social commentary. The peripheral characters are easily woven into the story with their own interesting sub plots. The surprising twists at the end only add to the enjoyment of this novel. The progression of the story is orderly with no superfluous details and with a wonderfully engrossing plot, this book is sure to be a success. I absolutely loved it. 5*****

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2010

    I Really Enjoyed This One

    The story was good but what made this truly interesting was all the details about Hong Kong during WWII. I found the history lesson just as skillfully written as the story itself. When I think about a novel after I have finished it, then I know it is worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2009

    Great Book!

    I can't believe I hadn't even heard of this book until a friend recommended it for our book club selection. Lee does a fantastic job of transporting you to Hong Kong in the 40s and 50s - you get such a sense of time and place. The characters and plot are interesting and engrossing - it is one of those books that you can't put down as you want to learn about how everything comes together. This is especially true givenm that the novel alternates between the 40s and the 50s, with hints of what has happened or what is to come interspersed creatively throughout. The book also made me want to learn much more about Japan's role in WWII - I have mostly learned about Europe during that time, not Asia.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    Engaging Story

    Loved this book and was sorry when I had finished it! I am especially picky about the fiction I read and need a good engaging story before I will read fiction. Too much of the fiction today is one dimensional with unrealistic plotlines. Consequently, my reading these days is biography or memoir. I had, however, read a review of The Piano Teacher in Vogue and thought it sounded intriguing. Getting ready for a trip and looking for books to read, I happened upon The Piano Teacher and purchased it. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. The story engages you immediately as do the characters. I was also struck by the background of the story - Hong Kong during and immediately after WWII. Now, I'm eagerly awaiting the author's next novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read

    This book will allow you to enter Hong Kong during WWII and after as seen through the eyes of the characters. If you weren't aware of what was happening in Hong Kong during this time you will find this book to be quite interesting. I loved the characters and the emotional roller coaster that many of them were on in this book. You won't be able to put it down!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is an insightful historical fiction

    In 1952, recently married to Martin, Claire Pendleton arrives in Hong Kong when her spouse is assigned there as the chief engineer of the British colonial government Department of Water Services overseeing the construction of the Tai Lam Cheung Reservoir. Wealthy Chinese Melody and Victor Chen want their daughter Locket to receive piano lesions but only an Englishwoman will do as her teacher. Claire accepts the position so she has something to do, but quickly realizes her student has no interest in learning to play the piano.<BR/><BR/>In 1942 in Hong Kong Will Truesdale and Portuguese-Chinese Trudy Liang share a passionate affair, but the Japanese soon occupy the British colony. Ten years later, he is still in the city working as a driver to the wealthy Chen family. When he and Claire meet, the attraction is incredible. Soon they are having an affair that everyone knows about as neither do a good job hiding their trysts. However, the events of 1942 and who caused what to Will, Trudy, and Victor resurfaces as the good times ended with the Japanese invasion and returned when the war ended, but seem heading to another destructing finish for all involved.<BR/><BR/>This is an insightful historical fiction that brings to life two closely related periods: surviving the Japanese WW II occupation and recovering just after the occupation and the war is over. The cast is strong as each does what he or she must to live through the ordeal of the 1940s although ramifications still linger as of 1952 when seemingly less life threatening choices once again may lead to tragedy. THE PIANO TEACHER is a strong character study of survival of the fittest which means do whatever one must to live during WW II and its aftermath in Hong Kong<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

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    Lol

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    Posted January 3, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2011

    So real

    Loved this. Real characters, not villians and heros . Really showed the expat life as i remember it in hong kong.

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Trudy, Will, Claire, and Victor....Amazing characters

    The scene is Hong Kong, and the year is 1952. The story begins with a young English girl name Claire who just moved to Hong Kong with her new husband. Claire finds a job as a piano teacher for the Chens.

    In between getting to know Claire and the Chens. The author goes back 11 years from then. So through out the whole book. Your going back and fourth from Claire's present day and WWII. And that's when you first be introduce to Trudy and Will.

    This book was phenomenal. Usually I'm into the Stephen King Dean Koontz type of books. But this book was totally out of my genre, however. I really really enjoyed it. So now, I am a fan of Janice Y K Lee.

    So if your looking for a different type of book, with a different type of feel, scene, speed,and genre. Pick up the Piano Teacher, you want regret it!!! =)

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Good book for a book group.

    I probably wouldn't have read The Piano Teacher if it hadn't been for my book group because I pretty much read just New York Times top ten books. It is a good tale about not getting stuck in a stereotype lifestyle and a stilted marriage. The most timid character becomes the bravest. The bravest characters become the most timid. The book group questions at the back of the book were helpful in stimulating our book group discussion.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    HK before and after WW2

    extraordinary novel of the lives of expats in HK in the mid-20th century, the effect of war, occupation, and recovery on the foreign population.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2010

    very engaging- easy to read and difficult to put down- you almost don't want it to end. one of the best books i have read in a long time and have recommended to just about everyone. i bought it based on recommendations on the cover as well as nytimes

    book review. it covered love, romance, friendship and the characters were very well developed. it would make a wonderful movie.

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  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This enigmatic debut novel will gently WOW the reader!

    Claire was uncertain what she would do with her life and even marrying Martin had been somewhat of a lark. It was 1952 and as a British subject, she never thought she would end up in Hong Kong. Martin was working for the government and his job wasn't much of a concern to her. What did concern Caire was what she would be doing in Hong Kong. Not long after she arrived Claire let it be known that she was available to teach piano.

    The ten-year-old daughter of Melody and Victor Chen was a student of Claure's. Melody Chen was a taitais, but her cousin by marriage, Trudy, had her beat. Society was everything. Trudy Liang was an exotic oriental goddess, half Chinese, half Portuguese, a mixture that somehow drew people to her, but repulsed them at the same time. The Chinese didn't like mixed breeds, but they tolerated her. Their cousin Domme was even more British than the British and somehow he fit into this unusual Hong Kong society where "everyone has to be friends or it gets very unpleasant." Even a "rude English matron" like Edwina Storch had her place in the mix.

    War quickly arrived on the scene and the foreigners were separated, the British becoming the most detested. "Rations" were soon translated to mean 500 calories a day. "Camp Stanley" quickly became a place where the high mucky Hong Kong players had to grovel and "become survivors or not." The Japanese atrocities had begun. They got what they wanted quickly and cruelly. Someone held the secret of the Crown Collection, but who? Otsubo soon had his flunkies to grovel at his beck and call. The horror began to whirl around them, Claire wasn't the only one who refused to notice things. Eyes were turned toward personal survival. Hong Kong would come back to its former glory, but who would come back with it?

    This history of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong tucked inside these pages is stunning. Lee captures the flavored essence of Hong Kong perfectly. It is not the buildings, nor things like scenery because we only read little things like "the peak" or talk of the rains and how the city remained dirty in spite of any watery deluge. What she does capture is the true nature of the human spirit during war and its lasting aftermath and effect on those who weren't there or even in existence. I might warn the reader that if you are expecting a heated romance to show up within the first hundred pages, you'll be sorely disappointed. This is a book that speaks to the hearts and minds of people and is what I call a "thinker." After I closed the last page of the book and thought about it for a while, I was totally captivated by what was unsaid, but so obvious in Janice Y. K. Lee's brilliant debut novel. I have been to Hong Kong and the caricatures of the people in the book are still there. They are everywhere.

    Quill says: This enigmatic debut novel will gently WOW the reader!

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Life in Hong Kong in the 1940's

    I thought this was an excellent book, one I couldn't wait to get back to reading. Very informative about what living in Hong Kong was like in the 1940's before and after WWII.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Although I loved the book and thought the characters were interesting, I thought the title was a little mis-leading in that the book was more about Trudy than it was about the piano teacher.

    I think Janice should write a sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful

    A neighbor called and said to me, "you read fast, this book needs to be back to the library in a week. So I read and read.... I loved this book from the first page. It has a bit of everything in it, history, war, customs in Japan, love, sadness, affairs, marriage, culture and on and on. You will not be sorry to read this book, it opens ones eyes to many things.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A must read!

    I really had little knowledge of Hong Kong around and during WWII! As much as this is fiction it got me interested in this time in history. It is a gripping story of a young woman living in Hong Kong during that time. The characters are well developed and interesting. The story line is fast paced. I highly recommend it.

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