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Peony in Love

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Peony in Love

A Novel
by Lisa See
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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Shanghai Girls. "I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret." For young Peony,...
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Shanghai Girls. "I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret." For young Peony,...
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  • BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.

    "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, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, 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: "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public." 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 through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave--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 readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

    Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place--even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one' s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See's new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

  • Excerpt from Chapter 1- Riding the Wind Two days before my sixteenth birthday, I woke up
    so early that my maid was still asleep on the floor at the foot of
    my bed. I should have scolded Willow, but I didn't because I
    wanted a few moments alone to savor my excitement. Beginning tonight,
    I would attend a production of The Peony Pavilion mounted in our garden.
    I loved this opera and had collected eleven of the thirteen printed versions
    available. I liked to lie in bed and read of the maiden Liniang and her
    dream lover, their adventures, and their ultimate triumph. But for three
    nights, culminating on Double Seven--the seventh day of the seventh
    month, the day of the lovers' festival, and my birthday--I would actually
    see the opera, which was normally forbidden to girls and women. My father
    had invited other families for the festivities. We'd have contests and
    banquets. It was going to be amazing.
    Willow sat up and rubbed her eyes. When she saw me staring at her,
    she scrambled to her feet and offered good wishes. I felt another flutter of
    anticipation, so I was particular when Willow bathed me, helped me into
    a gown of lavender silk, and brushed my hair. I wanted to look perfect; I
    wanted to act perfectly.
    A girl on the edge of sixteen knows how pretty she is, and as I looked
    in the mirror I burned with the knowledge. My hair was black and silky.
    When Willow brushed it, I felt the strokes from the top of my head all the
    way down my back. My eyes were shaped like bamboo leaves; my brows
    were like gentle brushstrokes limned by a calligrapher. My cheeks glowed
    the pale pink of a peony petal. My father and mother liked to comment on
    how appropriate this was, because my name was Peony. I tried, as only a
    young girl can, to live up to the delicateness of my name. My lips were full
    and soft. My waist was small and my breasts were ready for a husband's
    touch. I wouldn't say I was vain. I was just a typical fifteen-year-old girl. I
    was secure in my beauty but had enough wisdom to know it was only
    My parents adored me and made sure I was educated--highly educated.
    I lived a rarefied and precious existence, in which I arranged flowers,
    looked pretty, and sang for my parents' entertainment. I was so
    privileged that even my maid had bound feet. As a small girl, I believed
    that all the gatherings we held and all the treats we ate during Double
    Seven were a celebration for me. No one corrected my mistake, because I
    was loved and very, very spoiled. I took a breath and let it out slowly--
    happy. This would be my last birthday at home before I married out, and I
    was going to enjoy every minute.
    I left my room in the Unmarried Girls' Hall and headed in the direction
    of our ancestral hall to make offerings to my grandmother. I'd spent
    so much time getting ready that I made a quick obeisance. I didn't want to
    be late for breakfast. My feet couldn't take me as fast as I wanted to go, but
    when I saw my parents sitting together in a pavilion overlooking the garden,
    I slowed. If Mama was late, I could be late too.
    "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public," I heard my mother say.
    "I'm even concerned for my sisters-in-law. You know I don't encourage
    private excursions. Now to bring outsiders in for this performance . . ."
    She let her voice trail off. I should have hurried on, but the opera
    meant so much to me that I stayed, lingering out of sight behind the
    twisted trunks of a wisteria vine.
    "There is no public here," Baba said. "This will not be some open affair
    where women disgrace themselves by sitting among men. You will be hidden
About the Author-
  • Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit the author's website:
    To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau

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    Random House Publishing Group
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