One of my list of 26 things to do before I am 27 is to finish at least one book every month. I love to read. As a child I was a huge bookworm and the local library was one of my favourite places. I believe one of my early teachers even asked my parents to stop me reading a bit so that my other subjects could catch up.

I read most nowadays when I have a chance to travel somewhere. Yesterday I was in London for work so had about four hours on the Eurostar to finish reading a book I started a few weeks ago, The Piano Teacher. I think it was a Christmas present, it had been sitting patiently on my bookshelf for a few months.

It’s set in Hong Kong, before, during and after the second world war. There are two parallel stories. One around the characters Trudy, a Chinese- Portuguese woman, and Will, an English man, who meet just before the invasion of the Japanese. The second story takes place twenty years later when Claire, a newly arrived English woman (the “piano teacher” of the story) meets an older Will.

I happened to start reading it at the same time as my friend Claire. She got bored of it and stopped not that far in. I admit the story gets going a bit slowly. The first quarter or so is setting up the relationships between the three main characters and it can sometimes feel a bit stilted a slow.

But then…

Once the Japanese invade the story really gets interesting. The depiction of Hong Kong during the invasion and in the prisoner camps is fascinating and the deeper motivations and strengths and weaknesses of the characters come to the surface. The tension between the characters, the slow move towards an ending which you can sense but not quite figure out until it arrives.

The end is tragic and poignant and beautiful all at the same time. Is that too much? The writing was not always mind-blowing but the story was good enough to carry it through. I would definitely recommend it.

Although Claire, knowing a little what kind of books you like, I’m still not sure you’d like it even if you made it to the end :)

p.s. while I was in England I took the opportunity to stock up on English books (and spent a blissfully long time browsing in the bookshop). Waiting for me now (once I have finished Wolf Hall, which I am so nearly done with) are: The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

Anyone read any of them and can recommend which one to start first? Or have other recommendations for me to add to my amazon basket?

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