Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

ghostbrideThe Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo

4/5 stars

Release Date: August 5, 2014

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has 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 what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s DaughterThe Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story and from a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Review:

I absolutely loved THE GHOST BRIDE by Yangsze Choo. I ended up listening to the audiobook, read by the author. The writing is really lovely, I couldn’t stop reading/listening to the story and the author did a fantastic performance re: reading the book. Audiobooks are usually a hit or miss for me, but this was probably my best experience yet. Another great thing about the author reading the book, I got to hear how the characters sound to Yangsze, which was pretty cool.

Li Lan was a very interesting protagonist. Sometimes things would happen to her and she’d act totally calm or she’d go do things she probably shouldn’t. Half of it was probably bravery and if she didn’t do them the plot wouldn’t move along but the other half was like curiosity or something. So I’d be like “no don’t do that” but also “why are you doing this *very confused*”. So I liked the protagonist but I also had mixed feelings re: her actions. Li Lan doing certain things that were obviously a bad idea didn’t create suspense but confusion.

I’m torn between giving this a 4 or 4.5/5 stars. I would also categorize this book as historical fiction with fantastical elements. The story was very captivating and I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio. My favourite part was probably part 2 or 3, when the MC was exploring the afterlife. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending – it kind of ended on a cliffhanger. This may be an effect of listening to the audiobook so I plan to check out a physical copy; I might get a sense of closure that way.

The book does use the slur c*olie a few times and while technically accurate (the book is set in 19th century colonial Malaysia) I think the author should have acknowledged it’s a slur. I’m not 100% sure if it was necessary, considering the MC doesn’t think of those in a different class as below or less than her.

This book is also told from the POV of an upper class Chinese woman (I think she’s around 18?) living in colonial Malaysia. The family have fallen on hard times, so they aren’t exactly rich but have been able to (mostly) hide their debt and still have a good name. It should’ve probably been acknowledged the sort of privilege the MC has over other classes of people living in 19th century colonial Malaysia.

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