Author: Yangsze Choo
Publisher: William Morrow
Type of book: 1893, Malaya, ghosts, afterlife, Chinese hell, possession, marriage, poverty, class, vices, Chinese communities in Malaysia, death, immortality
Year it was published: 2013
"One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..."
Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
The main characters include Li Lan, an eighteen year old girl who is asked to become a ghost bride. She is best described as curious, impulsive, a bit short tempered and she doesn't really take advantage of her charms or looks. She is also rash and doesn't think of the future. I'm not kidding when I say that pretty much all her actions are met with misadventures. There is also Amah, Li Lan's caretaker who raised both her and her mother who passed away from chickenpox. Amah is superstitious and knows Li Lan very well and she is a neat and devoted woman to Li Lan. Tian Bai is an orphan and cousin of Lim Tian Ching (the dead guy). He is handsome, caring, devoted and very filial to his family. He also enjoys spoiling Li Lan and doesn't care much for superstitions. Lim Tian Ching is the dead guy who wants Li Lan for himself and tries to charm her into being his bride. He is petulant, childish, spoiled and can't really see the big picture. Naive is a better word for him. Er Lang is a mysterious figure that seems to be mysterious, sarcastic and constantly gets into fight with Li Lan over nothing and everything.
Impulsiveness and curiosity bring on trouble
The story is written in first person narrative from Li Lan's point of view and is linear, although I would guess that few times there is foreshadowing, which I didn't really get, and must the author leave off at the cliffhanger ending? In some cases the story seemed to stretch on for a little too long in my opinion, at least towards the end and the momentum seems to be a bit lost. The strengths of the book do include memorable secondary characters, an interesting storyline and very vivid pictures plus one gets to learn about Chinese in Malayan lands and the afterlife. The weakness does include Li Lan and that I feel towards the end I couldn't really sense her changing, and I had a difficult time believing that certain tastes of her changed.
About Yangsze Choo
Yangsze Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She lives in California with her husband and their two children, and loves to eat and read (often at the same time).
I'm having a strange reaction to the book, not really sure how to describe it. The whole book really reminded me of Spirited Away anime by Hayao Miyazaki. The afterlife was a bit reminiscent of what I had learned of Chinese version of hell, and I did enjoy learning about Chinese in Malaysia as well as being frightened by how afterlife was depicted. The book itself also raises a lot of interesting questions and possibilities for those seeking an inspiration to write, at least for me. I did find Li Lan to be frustrating and few times I wanted to knock some sense into her. I didn't understand her choices or why she made them, and I also feel that sooner or later a sequel will be written to the book. Yes, it is set up that way. Thus my emotions are somewhat in a flux because I enjoyed the afterworld scenes as well as how they're written and portrayed and how they seem to come alive, but I couldn't really stand Li Lan for some odd reason, or at least parts of her got on my nerves. Love the cover and here's something creepy: Few days ago I watched a youtube video where there is a law in France that a living person can marry someone dead provided they were engaged before their death. My reaction? Umm weirded out and speechless. I told someone about the law, but the person had a different reaction than what I them to have, saying that if its for love, then they can imagine themselves being married to a dead person. Soon I started to read this book which talked about these things, plus the number, 413, umm bad luck in China and West, although I don't believe in number superstitions.
This is for TLC Book Tour
Yangsze’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, August 5th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, August 6th: Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, August 7th: Book Dilettante
Friday, August 8th: Bibliosue
Monday, August 11th: guiltless reading
Monday, August 11th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, August 12th: Fuelled by Fiction
Wednesday, August 13th: Olduvai Reads
Monday, August 18th: Literary Feline
Tuesday, August 19th: Book Without Any Pictures
Thursday, August 21st: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Friday, August 22nd: nightlyreading4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)