Peony is the cherished only child of the first wife of a wealthy Chinese nobleman. Yet she is betrothed to a man she has never met and as her sixteenth birthday approaches, she has spoken to no man other than her father and never ventured outside the cloistered women's quarters of the Chen Family Villa. She is trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage and the romantic lyrics from the Chinese classic novel The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own. Her father engages a small theatrical troupe to perform scenes from the epic opera of The Peony Pavilion - a live spectacle that few women have ever seen - in their garden amidst the scent of ginger, green tea and jasmine. Peony's mother is against the production: "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public." But Peony's father prevails. Women will watch the opera from behind a screen to hide them from view and through a crack, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave and is immediately bewitched by him.
So begins Peony's journey of love, desire and sorrow as Lisa See's haunting new novel takes readers back to seventeenth-century China and into the heart and soul of an unforgettable heroine.
Lisa See is the author of the best-selling Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net, The Interior and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.