The Piano Teacher is set in World War II and Post World War II Hong Kong as Janice Y.K. Lee tells the tale of one man’s interactions during and after the war. Throughout the novel, she skillfully moves from one time line to another. In the beginning we are introduced to Will Truesdale, an Englishman who has just moved to Hong Kong who quickly falls for Trudy, who is the daughter of an affluent Chinese businessman. We follow their story into the Japanese attack on Hong Kong and are given a small glimpse into history. As Janice Y.K. Lee is telling Will and Trudy’s tale she also weaves in the tale of Will and Claire, the piano teacher, which takes place after the war.
This is a must read simply because it is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Reading fiction is a treat itself, but it is all the better when you can read about pieces of history neatly woven into the lives of the fictional characters. Janice Y.K. Lee does a wonderful job of weaving in the factual information with the fictional. We are given a look at the Japanese occupation through both the eyes of Trudy and Will. Once the Japanese completely take over, Will is interned and his life in the camps is less than easy. Trudy is left on the outside to fend for herself and through her eyes we are given a look at the Japanese soldiers, as she must make friends with them to survive.
While I definitely recommend this book because of its historical elements and the authors uncanny ability to switch from one time line to another, I was frustrated with some of the characters’ decisions and the ending of the book. I felt that the epilogue ending was rather quick and inconclusive.