Author(s): Janice Y. K. Lee
Set in present-day Hong Kong, The Expatriates follows the lives of three women. An unspeakable tragedy leaves twenty-something Mercy with a crippling personal inertia, and Margaret, a mother of three, numb and unable to heal. In the same small expatriate community, Hilary tries to distract herself from a marriage gone stale by providing piano lessons for a local orphan, only to find her actions openly criticized on an anonymous online forum. The individual, sometimes overlapping perspectives of Mercy, Margaret and Hilary are woven together, exposing the insularity and complex privilege of the expatriate world, whilst also revealing the fragility of a woman's position in the world. When the women are struck by tragedy, each of them realizes how shockingly dependent they were upon conforming to the unspoken rules of their milieu. In Hong Kong, without speaking Cantonese or having a job (it is almost always the husband who precipitates the move), these women find themselves, almost unexpectedly, stripped of their former identities and living in a land of country clubs and housemaids. Without their familiar ties to family, friends, and jobs,they find themselves in a world where the old rules no longer apply. The Expatriates is a novel about overpowering grief, the transformative power of forgiveness and how finding oneself in a strange land can be the best way to find one's true self.
Having just spent 10 of the last 17 years in Hong Kong, this rose to the top of my reading copy pile last year. Lee has done a superb job capturing the attitude and behaviours of the unfortunately common sterotypical "expat". This is an uncomfortable tale of people and lives spiralling out of control, of privilege, entitlement and deep set unhappiness. Whether you've spent time in the expat bubble or not, you'll enjoy this read. (Libby)
Lee tells two engrossing love stories... Just hide your phone before cracking this one open-or risk calling your ex Marie Claire on The Piano Teacher Lee delivers a standout debut [with] layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Piano Teacher Lee unfolds the story with the brisk grace and discretion of the society she describes New Yorker on The Piano Teacher Sensual and gripping Good Housekeeping on The Piano Teacher Laced with intrigue New York Times Book Review on The Piano Teacher Janice Lee delivers a standout debut Boston Globe on The Piano Teacher The novel is sustained by elegant prose and a terrific sense of place. As Graham Greene evoked Vietnam in The Quiet American, Lee, born and raised in Hong Kong long after the war, captures the city as it was during World War II, its glittering veneer barely masking the panic and corruption beneath Miami Herald on The Piano Teacher Evocative, poignant, and skillfully crafted, The Piano Teacher is more than an epic tale of war and a tangled, tortured love story. It is the kind of novel one consumes in great, greedy gulps, pausing (grudgingly) only when absolutely necessary ... If we measure the skill of a fiction writer by her ability to create characters and atmosphere so effortlessly real, so alive on the page, that the reader feels a sense of participatory anxiety-as if the act of reading gives one the power to somehow influence the outcome of purely imaginary events-then Lee should be counted among the very best in recent memory Chicago Tribune on The Piano Teacher A compelling portrait of the devastating choices people make in order to survive Time Out New York on The Piano Teacher One of the most insightful, elegant, and atmospheric novels I've read in a long time. Janice Lee is nothing short of brilliant and her novel is impossible to put down -- Gary Shteyngart on The Piano Teacher Rarely does one encounter a debut work as beguiling and assured as Janice Lee's The Piano Teacher. Rich with intrigue, romance, and betrayal, this wonderfully written, utterly captivating novel dazzles with its sharp-eyed renderings of beau monde Hong Kong as it is plunged into the crucible of war. With its fascinating interplay of East and West and wide cast of effervescent characters ... this is a truly transporting-and indeed irresistible-work of fiction Chang-Rae Lee on The Piano Teacher Compelling ... A persuasive re-creation of a time and place Penelope Lively on The Piano Teacher
Janice Y.K. Lee was born in Hong Kong to Korean parents and lived there until she was fifteen. After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in English and American Literature and Language, she worked at Elle and Mirabella magazines in New York. She wrote The Piano Teacher after completing an MFA, and in between having four children. She lives in Hong Kong with her family. The Expatriates is her second novel.