Yesterday, I finished up Peony in Love by Lisa See, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favorite book ever, but it was well worth the read.

The basic plot line is about a young woman, Peony, in imperial China who is being arranged into a marriage, as was the custom. Just before her wedding day she meets a young man and falls in love with him. Because she knows she cannot marry him, she dives into a writing pursuit, sways into lovesickness, and eventually dies. . . The rest of the book (that happens in the first section) is about her pursuit of love in the afterlife as a hungry ghost. Apparently, according to other reviews, this book is based on a true story, a fact that I’ll have to explore more given the otherworldly content.

What I did appreciate about this book was the complexity of love that See portrays and the way that she takes a young, naive girl through the process of understanding these complexities. There’s also a theme of women’s liberation in this novel, particularly in regards to women being writers (something I, of course, can appreciate) but also in regards to women being willing to sacrifice for the people they love.

On the other hand, See, perhaps simply because it was what was accepted culturally in Peony’s world, seems to embrace foot binding as a rite of passage for young women, something they had to do to move up socially. While this was certainly true historically, I find See’s acceptance of that tradition, as seen in Peony’s acceptance, as incongruous with the other themes of liberation in the book. I understand that See uses foot binding in her other novels (this is the first of hers that I’ve read), so perhaps I am simply not grasping her embrace of the culture, but it was disturbing for me.

I would recommend the book, however. It was a pleasant read, and I particularly enjoyed reading about traditional Chinese beliefs about the afterlife. For a girl into ghosts, that was the best part. For more information on the book, visit Lisa See’s website.

On another note, Barnes and Noble (please note that I am not a corporate bookstore fan – I shop independents as much as possible) has just launched an online magazine ordering venture. I can see two benefits to this service. First, it might cut down on the number of print magazines in circulation (many subscriptions are available in online form), which would be a boon for trees. 2. It might up circulation numbers for some great publications like Mother Jones. Although it could be argued that people could just go to the Mother Jones website and order themselves, I know, practically, that more people shop through a bulk location than in specialized stores, so perhaps this will be something.
I was disappointed, however, to see that – in a quick scan – they weren’t carrying any literary journals, a sad fact since journals could truly use a pick-up in sales about now and because BN is offering single issues to some subscriptions, something writers use in surveying publication spots. What do you think about BN’s magazine sales online?

Finally, Cam has won three Bookmooch points for her suggestions about what I should select from my TBR pile. Cam, let me know your BookMooch name through email, and I’ll send those points right over. . .

Great days all around. And if you reviewed Peony in Love yourself, share your review here. Thanks.