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The Secret Piano: From Mao’s Labor Camps to Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei Review

Title: The Secret Piano: From Mao’s Labor Camps to Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Author: Zhu Xiao-Mei

First published January 1, 2007

311 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9781611090772 (ISBN10: 1611090776)

Rating: 4


Lena Scott never expected to fall for Zane Kennedy, the man who represents everything she loathes. He’s a criminal, a killer, and a threat to her very existence.

But as she spends more time with him, she realizes that there’s more to Zane than meets the eye. He has a heart, and he’s willing to do anything to protect the people he loves.

When Lena’s life is in danger, Zane is the only one who can save her. But can she trust him?

Can she let herself fall for a man who could destroy her in an instant? Zane has fractured her world, but maybe he’s the only one who can put the pieces back together.

About the Author

Zhu Xiao-Mei, a renowned Chinese pianist, is highly regarded for her interpretation of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”. She began playing the piano at a young age and was accepted into the Beijing Conservatory at just ten years old.

Unfortunately, her education was halted by the Cultural Revolution. After spending five years in a labor camp in Mongolia, she eventually relocated to Paris, France, where she has resided and worked since 1984.

Currently, she teaches at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique and has played for audiences across six continents.

Editoral Review

Zhu Xiao-Meis memoir, The Secret Piano: From Maos Labor Camps to Bachs Goldberg Variations, is a captivating story about a young Chinese girl with a passion for music who endures the hardships of Maoist China. Published in 2007, the memoir is a unique blend of history, culture, and personal experiences, and it provides a rare insight into the daily struggles of the Chinese people during Maos regime.

Zhu Xiao-Mei is an accomplished pianist who has performed on concert stages worldwide. The Secret Piano chronicles her journey from a child prodigy in China to an international music sensation, and the challenges she faced along the way.

The book is a testimony of the transformative power of music and the human spirit, and it shows how one persons unwavering dedication can overcome even the most extreme circumstances. The Secret Piano is a genre-bending work that combines elements of memoir, history, and music.

The books style is clear and lucid, and Xiao-Mei evokes the pain, fear, and desperation of her experiences with a poignant and understated voice. She takes the reader on a journey through her difficult childhood, her years in Maos labor camps, and her eventual release and arrival in Paris.

The plot of the book is anchored by Xiao-Meis passion for music and her journey to become a concert pianist. Along the way, she encounters numerous obstacles, including poverty, oppression, and government censorship.

Her story is told through a series of vignettes, each describing a significant moment in her life. Through these stories, the reader gains insight into the character of this remarkable woman and how she overcame adversity to achieve her dreams.

The main character in the book, of course, is Zhu Xiao-Mei herself. She is a complex and nuanced character, who is at times both vulnerable and strong.

Through her trials, she maintains her love of music and uses it to help her survive. Other characters in the book, such as her family members, are also well-drawn and add texture to the narrative.

Throughout the book, Xiao-Mei offers commentary on Chinas political and social climate at the time, providing historical context to her experiences. This offers the reader a glimpse into the cultural landscape of China during Maos rule, and how it impacted peoples lives.

It also emphasizes the role of music in Chinese culture, and how it can be a means of resistance against oppressive regimes. While the book is a compelling and engaging read, it does have its flaws.

The structure of the book, with its disjointed vignettes, can make it difficult to follow at times. Some readers may also find the excessive focus on music to be indulgent, and the lack of attention given to other aspects of Xiao-Meis life to be frustrating.

Overall, The Secret Piano is an evocative and powerful memoir that is well worth reading. Xiao-Meis perseverance in the face of adversity is inspiring, and her love of music is infectious.

The book offers a unique perspective on Chinas history and culture, and provides insight into the human capacity for resilience and hope. For music lovers, history buffs, and memoir enthusiasts alike, The Secret Piano is a must-read.

5/5 stars.

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