Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Good Read, Marred

I just finished The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y. K. Lee. I would describe it as a good read, though not a literary masterpiece. The characters lacked depth and believability, but I found the pre- and post-WWII Hong Kong setting of the novel evocative and interesting. I hadn't known anything about the situation in Hong Kong during the war, so I appreciated the historical aspects of the story. All and all, I enjoyed the reading experience. Until the end, that is.

At it's heart, the novel contained a mystery—what became of the glamorous Eurasian socialite, Trudy Liang, during the war? I solved one aspect of the mystery halfway through the novel, not due to any great powers of divination on my part, but because the unfolding of the story made the solution likely. Despite that, the plot developments kept me involved. In the end, though, the choices made by two of the three main characters weren't believable or satisfying.

It's hard to write about a book's ending yet not give it away. Suffice it to say that, having been immersed in the novel for over 300 pages, I craved an ending that felt genuine, one in which conflicts were resolved and characters experienced some degree of personal growth. This book left me feeling let-down. I'm still glad I read it, still happy I learned a bit about Hong Kong life in the 1940s and 50s. But after investing my time, I missed that jolt of pleasure that comes when things are wrapped up well.

1 comment:

  1. I understand what you mean. I've just finished reading a novel by a friend whom I consider to be a good writer, but the ending felt as if she'd just ran away in a rush to escape. Nothing seemed resolved. It never "went vertical" like Robert Bly always taught a poem should go at the end. It felt as if it just went dead. Endings are difficult to write, both in fiction and poetry, because so much depends upon them. Bonnie