This was one of those cases (we’ve all read at least one) where the premise was perfectly set up and the potential for knocking the wind out of the reader was there…but the author simply failed to deliver.
Janice Y.K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher, a historical romance set in Hong Kong during and after World War II, is about two love affairs in different times. In 1942, Will Truesdale and Trudy Liang are swept up in the glamour of pre-war Hong Kong, but quickly find their world ripped from their under their feet. Ten years later, Claire comes to Hong Kong with her husband and finds a job as a piano teacher. The family’s driver is Will, and soon they are wrapped in an affair. Slowly, the past unravels and we learn of a shadowy past and a series of unanswered questions.
The main problem with this book was that the characters never connected with the reader. Perhaps they are too realistic in that the characters don’t seem to have any redeeming factors about them. I finished the book simply because of the mystery involved and while I cared little about the outcome for the characters, I just wanted to know who-done-what…
Lee’s writing style was easy to read and there were several chapters of writing brilliance: using cryptic clues that alluded to what was going on at various times. There are several twists and surprises, but without much emotion vested in the main characters, it fell rather flat.
The true gem of this novel is the rich detail and descriptions of Hong Kong in the war. I felt wrapped up in the world and while characters were not deeply portrayed, they all had realistic, memorable dialogue and quirks.