“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn, only regret.”
For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.
Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production. But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet even hidden from view, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man–and is immediately overcome with emotion.
So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow, as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes listeners back to seventeenth-century China. Steeped in traditions and ritual, PEONY IN LOVE explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love, and ultimately, addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.