Posts Tagged ‘malaysia’

This is the story of Lakshmi, a young Ceylonese girl brought to Malaya in 1930, as the young bride of an older man, and her children and grandchildren.

Lakshmi narrates the first part of the book, where she explains about her childhood and how she is tricked into marriage, but then goes on to have six children.  The baton is then passed between various characters as we witness events from their individual points of view and learn how the tragedy that befell Lakshmi’s family haunted the further generations.  The book ends up in the current day, and as a result the reader is presented with details of the a changing country, and learns how WWII shaped and changed the lives of so many.

To give away much more of the plot would be to start revealing spoilers, but suffice to say that this is an enchanting and moving read.  The narrators all have their own distinct personalities and perceptions of various events and each other.  Some parts were harrowing to read as people struggled with the effects of the war, made wrong decisions and lived with regret.  Lakshmi is the matriarch of this family and her strength, intelligence and determination are clear for all to see.

Malay(si)a is brought to vivid life, and I felt able to really imagine the place with all it’s vibrancy and energy.  Towards the end, the language did become a little bit ‘flowery’ and I felt that the book was perhaps slightly too long, although it packed a lot into it’s pages and certainly never got boring.

This was the debut novel by this author and very impressive it is too.  I will be seeking out further work by Rani Manicka.

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This is the story of Johnny Lim, a textile merchant, Communist and possible gangster.  There are three narrators, Jaspar, Johnny’s son, who has researched his father’s life, and as a grown man is looking at his father’s life in the 1940s, shortly before Jaspar’s birth; Snow, Johnny’s wife, whose narrative is in diary form, written at the time of the events which she describes; and Peter, Johnny’s former best friend, who writes as an old man recounting the events.  All three narratives at times describe the same events, from differing points of view.

The book centres around a trip taken by Snow, Johnny, Peter, an ex-pat English business man named Frederick Honey, and an enigmatic Japanese professor named Kunichika, when they voyage to the legendary Seven Maidens island.  The imminent invasion of Malaysia by the Japanese forms a backdrop to the story.

I really enjoyed the book.  Each narrator has his or her own unique character, and their telling of the story sometimes differs depending on their own perception of the situations they find themselves in.  Interestingly (and I imagine deliberately on the part of the author), the reader never actually gets to know Johnny very well, as he is described according to the point of view of the narrator.  Whereas Jaspar sees  his father as an evil man, Snow and Peter describe a man who seems at odds with Jaspar’s opinion (or course, Jaspar is also relying on sources for his research which probably differ in reliability, and both Snow and Peter are swayed by their own feelings about Johnny).

The story is less about the plot, and more about the characters themselves.  For me, the most interesting character was Snow, perhaps because her story was being written as events unfolded.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable book.  It is Tash Aw’s first novel, and I would definitely read more by him.

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