1935309First book out the gate for Ja No Read Mo 2017, and I wonder if I already broke my ‘fiction only’ rule for the month.

Peony in Love by Lisa See is an interesting story about the ‘life’ of a young Chinese girl a few years into the reign of the Machu dynasty, who is obsessed with an opera called Peony Pavilion itself the story of a young woman who dies from being unrequited love and is resurrected through her love being reciprocated when she is a ghost.

But this whole story is about the young girl Peony, who love the opera The Peony Pavilion that she dissects it word for word as a philosopher and a poet.  So obsessed is she with the opera, and so despairing of life without the man she has recently fallen in love with, Peony starves herself to death.  Albeit I believe it is unintentional.  I think she was just so consumed with her work on the opera that she forgot to eat.  And after breaching etiquette her family was angry enough that months went by before he mother saw her and it was too late to bring her back.

And unfortunately her funeral rites were not properly completed so she is left to wander the earth as a hungry ghost.  She tries to help the man she loves who (unbeknownst to her) was to be her husband, but in her ignorance of her newfound state caused much grief instead by seeming to kill the second wife of the man she was to wed.  Only after 20 years have passed and she has done what she can to create a good life for her man are her funeral rites completed and she is finally, truly laid to rest.

This whole story seems to be an examination of love in it’s different forms.  It discusses through Peony’s observations, four different kinds of love as she would classify them: the love of sisters bound by blood or other ties, protecting and caring; the love of maidens for their ideal husbands, hesitant and shy; the love of wives for their husbands, loyal above all else; mother love, to cause both comfort and pain to do what is best for the child; and the deep passionate love of soul mate.  Very interesting to see them mapped out like this in the book.

It was hard to read at times, as this was written in an era where foot binding for women was still considered in fashion, and it describes the process in detail, before, during, and after.  But overall it makes me feel for and admire the women of that era who had to overcome so much just to survive.  A fantastic, fascinating read.

Next up is Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope, book numero deux for Ja No Read Mo 2017.

8357703Nathalie and David have been good and dutiful children to their parents, and now, grown-up, with their own families, they are still close to one another. Brother and sister. Except that they aren’t — brother and sister that is. They were both adopted when their loving parents found that they couldn’t have children themselves, and up until now it’s never mattered. But suddenly Nathalie discovers a deep need to trace her birth parents and is insisting that David makes the same journey. And through this, both learn one of the hardest lessons of all: that sometimes the answers to who we are and where we come from can be more difficult than the questions.