As you can see from my sidebar over there, ------> I keep an on-line library of all my books through a wonderful site called LibraryThing. (It's awesome - you should join if you haven't already.) Several weeks ago, I was selected to participate in their Early Reviewer program, which is a collaboration between the site and a publishing company (Random House, in this case.) Because my library somehow matched whatever criteria they were looking for, I was lucky enough to receive a free, advanced copy of a soon-to-be-published novel. In order to continue to participate, though, they recommend you write a review, etc. So, my review of Peony in Love is below:
I received my copy of this book in the mail as part of the Early Reviewer program. As a fan of historical fiction (especially stories about women), I was anxious to start the novel. Focusing on an arranged marriage that never quite reaches fruition, Peony in Love desperately wants to be a love story. It wants to be a story about love that is stronger than death; it craves to be about a kind of rare love that will transcend any time, place, or dimension.
After only one chapter through it, however, I thought, “This is awful!” The writing bored me. The further I read, the more I wanted to be shown rather than told about the emotions that play such a large role in the novel. I wanted more depth in the writing, more imagery. The only scene that really captured my full attention in the beginning was the very graphic description of the foot binding process. This was a fantastic depiction which caused me to physically cringe and shudder.
I did, at times, have to force myself to continue turning pages. Later on in the novel, as we learn more about Peony (our heroine) and her family’s history, I did soften toward the often very bland writing style. I eventually developed a fondness for the characters. I even wondered if perhaps Lisa See wrote this way intentionally. Did she purposely write in such a plain style to underscore or accentuate the heavy emotions that we are told are so prevalent throughout this story? Maybe.
This wasn’t one of the best novels I’ve read in recent memory, nor was it the worst. It was simply, to me, “ok.” It did, however, spark enough interest in me that I think I may check out See’s other novel, which was apparently a best-seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.