The Piano Teacher, By Janice YK Lee

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The Independent Culture

When Claire Pendleton accompanies her new husband to Hong Kong in 1951, her suburban prejudices - she was raised in Croydon - soon melt away.

Taking a job as a piano teacher to a wealthy Chinese couple, the Chens, she starts to appreciate the possibilities of her new life. The houshold is also home to an enigmatic English chauffeur, Will, for whom Claire forms an erotic fixation. Running in tandem with the story of Claire's infatuation is the history of Will's wartime liaison with Eurasian socialite, Trudy Ling.

Despite an occasional clunkiness to the narrative, Janice YK Lee's debut novel does a good job of explaining the consequences of Japanese occupation to the reader. Trudy Ling's secret history becomes as fascinating to Claire as that of her liveried lover.

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