The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

  • the expatriates (1:2016)Title:  The Expatriates
  • Author:  Janice Y.K. Lee
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Pub. date:  January 12, 2016 – Viking
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Janice Y. K. Lee’s blockbuster hit debut novel The Piano Teacher was called “immensely satisfying” by People, “intensely readable” by O, The Oprah Magazine, and “a rare and exquisite story” by Elizabeth Gilbert. And now, in her long-awaited follow-up, Lee explores with devastating poignancy the emotions, identities, and relationships of three very different American women living in the same small expat community in Hong Kong.

Mercy is adrift. A recent Columbia graduate without a safety net, she can’t hold down a job—or a man. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her inability to conceive a child she believes could save her floundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, ostensibly a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives crash into one another in ways that could have devastating consequences for them all. Moving, atmospheric, and utterly compelling, The Expatriates confirms Lee as an exceptional talent and one of our keenest observers of women’s inner lives.  (publisher)

My take:  The Expatriates is the story of three women who find themselves living in Hong Kong and connected to each other in unimaginable ways. The synopsis explains it all. What I found compelling was Lee’s way of getting to the core of each woman. They share a similarity or two but each is unique in her circumstances. As they come to understand each other they gain perspective on their own lives.

I found myself relating the most to Margaret. I could understand her reaction to the horrible loss. My heart ached for her as I wondered how I would go on after such adversity.

Lee’s portrait of Hong Kong’s expatriate community drew me in. In a way, it was like any community here or abroad with people trying to fit in or trying to maintain a sense of where they came from.

I liked this novel but thought it wrapped up a bit too civilly. Then again, perhaps that just shows the growth experienced by the women.

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee: Book Cover

From the back of the book: In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war.
Ten years later, Claire Pendleton lands in Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair . . . only to discover her lover’s enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past.
As the threads of this engrossing novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges – between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and, above all, the past.
I wanted to read this book from the moment I read about it and was thrilled when I received an ARC through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. It’s difficult to believe this is an author’s debut novel. Ms. Lee writes sparingly and beautifully. I’ve never been to Hong Kong but I don’t doubt she has captured it’s atmosphere perfectly. The description from the back of the book tells the reader enough of the story. I will only add that The Piano Teacher is a very good novel. It will be published on January 13, 2009.
My thanks to Viking for the ARC.