This is a beautifully written novel that draws the reader into a strange and exotic world so very different from our own. The characters lead a sad life by our standards, yet lives that are filled with triumphs over seemingly insurmountable events. A good read.
This is one of those novels that defines convention and traditional reading - this is a first novel of Eastern exoticism, myth and magic, and unforgettable characters, living and dead. It has a genuine intimacy and passionate involvement.
The story is about a 14 year-old girl from Ceylon who is traded off in marriage to a stranger across the ocean in the land of Malaysia. Duped into thinking her new husband is wealthy, she instead finds herself struggling to raise a family with a man too impractical to face reality and a world that is, by turns, unyielding and amazing, brutal and beautiful. Giving birth to a child every year until she is nineteen, she becomes a formidable matriarch, determine to grab from the world a better life for her daughters and sons and to face every new challenge with almost mythic strength. She survives by sheer willpower World War II and the Japanese occupation - but not unscathed. Dreamy and lyrical, told in alternating voices of the men and women of this amazing family this book brings a story of a world where small pleasures offset unimaginable horrors and where ghosts and gods walk hand in hand...
This book captured my attention from the beginning, although I did not fully appreciate its artistry until later on. The story line is very much steeped in the beliefs and superstitions of Malasia and Ceylon, but somehow they seem true within it. One of the many good things this book has to offer is the knowlege of a number of Eastern superstitions and customs, and an inside look into the workings of some families and arranged or semi-arranged marriages.
Perhaps due to the constant shifting from narrator to narrator, I found the characters, who do grow and change and are well-described, a little flat. Things seemed to be missing, and several times I found myself asking, "So what did happen?" or "So why did he/she act that way?" Nevertheless, as you read on, most of your questions are answered.
This book could be considered a tragic story; few of the people in it attain any true happiness. However, some of them are allowed their small triumphs and comforts and things are wrapped up in a satisfying way at the end.
Although I wish some gruesome parts had been less graphic and that there were fewer of them, it is, all in all, a beautifully written book with a number of messages. I am glad it came my way, but I would not want to read it again.
Liked this book very much. It seemed a bit predictable at first but then when the story starts continuing in different peoples memories of the events gave it an interesting twist. Definitely read this book!
I almost set this book down after the first 100 pgs. The story tells of numerous generations. The early years are difficult to read about, as the Japanese occupation is described rather graphically. Take the time to read to the end of the book, good insights into the strength it takes to live through such hardship and how a mother's love may sometimes seem harsh; although she is doing what she believes she must do to help her children strive. When I finished the book, I wondered if I should re-read or at least scan it again, as there were layers and back stories that I may not have totally understood or realized the depth. Now I need a light-weight book, to shake this one off.
This book is very well written and the beginning part is especially interesting regarding the life of a family in Malaysia. However, I found certain portions of the book very disturbing and too graphic for my taste!