Learn from another writer (3)


Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong. Graduate from Harvard College and was an editor at Elle and Mirabelle magazines. Some of her favourite writers are Lorrie Moore, Mona Simpson, Michael Cunningham. She currently lives in Hong Kong with her husband and children.  The Piano teacher is a triangle love story of Will, Trudy and Claire and was written based in a real time which is 1950’s and took place in Hong Kong. Some of my favourite lines from this book are:

The reformation of Claire thoughs about Chinese

Claire hadn’t met many Chinese people before, but the ones she seen in the big towns of England were serving you in restaurants or ironing clothes. There were many of those types in Hong Kong, of course, but what had been eye-opening was the sight of the affluent Chinese, the ones who seems English in all but their skin color. It had been quite something to see a Chinese step out of a Rolls-Royce … or in business suits, eating lunch with other Englishmen who talked to them as if they were the same. She hadn’t know that such worlds existed. And then with Locket, she was thrust into their world. (page 8)

When Claire started to enjoy stealing

…Claire saw a silk scarf lying on a chair. It was a beautiful, printed scarf, the kind women tied around their necks. She put it in her bag. A wonderful sense of calme came over her…When she got home, she went into the bedroom, locked the door, and pulled out the scarf. It was an Hermes scarf, from Paris, and had picture of zebras and lions in vivid oranges and browns. She practice tying it around her neck, and over her head, like an adventurous heiress on safari. She felt very glamorous. (page 19)

About Trudy

She hates compliments – when people tell her she’s beautiful, she says instantly, “But I have a mustache!” and she does, a faint golden one you can only see in the sun. She is always in the papers although, she explains, its more because of her father than that she is beautiful. “Hong Kong is very practical that way,” she says. “Wealth can make a woman beautiful.” She is Chinese – she’s not really anything, she says. She’s everything, invited everywhere. Cercle Sportif Francais, The American Country Club, The Deutscher Garten Club, she is welcome, an honorary member to everything. (page 28)

Claire and her friendship

Amelia had taken Claire under her wing, introducing her to people, inviting her to lunch, but Claire was often uncomfortable around her and her sharp observations and often biting innuendo. Still she clung to her as someone who could help her navigate the strange new world she found herself in. She knew her mother would approve of someone like Amelia, even be impressed that Claire knew such people. (Page 47)

Claire’s anxiety and the city

 That night, after dinner, she couldn’t relax. her inside seemed too large for her outside, a queer sensation, as if all that she was feeling couldn’t be contained inside her body Martin was still away, so she put on her street clothes and got on the bus to town…She disembarked in Wanchai, where there seemed to be the most actvity. She wanted to be around people, not so alone. The wet market was still open, Chinese people buying their cabbages and fish, the pork hanging from hooks, sometimes a whole pig head, red and bloody, dripping onto the street. This was the peculiarity of Hong Kong (page 66)

The old Claire and the new Claire

But then came Will. She could say to him all the things she thought, as long as it didn’t have anything to do with them, and he didn’t find any of it suprising. He didn’t have an idea of what she should be like. She was a new person – one who could have an affair, one who could be ribald, or sarcastic, or clever and he was never surprised. She was out of context with him. She was a new person. Sometimes she felt that she was more in love with that new person she could be, that this was an affair with a new Claire and that Will was just the enabler. (page 74)

Claire’s thought about her husband.

The awful thing was, she didn’t feel as badly as she thought of she ought to. She had always thought of women who had lovers as immoral women who cared nothing about society and manners and the way things should be. And yet, here she was, carrying on with a man who didn’t even particularly seem to like her. And Martin was good. This was the inescapable fact. And he was good to her.  Whether he loved her, she didn’t know. He was certainly pleased to have a wife and a home and all of that taken care of, but she didn’t know how much of that had to do with her as a person. Sometimes she felt that he had married her, dropped her into a slot labeled “wife”, and gotten on with his life. But she was sensible enough to see that she was the guilty one in this arrangement. Martin was guilty of nothing but benign neglect. She was taking advantage of a good man. (page 86)

I still have 2/3 to go and exciting because it turned out that this book is also in Oprah’s list. Hopefully to finish it by the end of this week, or maybe next week because this week I will be quite busy.

Happy Holiday Readers!

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