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The Ghost Bride: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 6, 2013
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Choo’s remarkably strong and arresting first novel explores the concept of Chinese spirit marriages in late-nineteenth-century Malaya through the eyes of the highly relatable Li Lan, a poor but spunky young woman, who is approached by the wealthy family of a dead man to become his bride. Li Lan prefers to rebuff the unusual offer despite its implications of good social standing and financial rescue for her money-strapped family. But when her dreams are brusquely invaded by the rather unsavory dead man, Lim Tian Ching, she realizes she may already be in over her head. Her dead suitor’s living cousin, Tian Bai, now the family heir, further complicates matters as Li Lan wrestles with her very real attraction to him. As the angry ghost becomes more possessive in her dreams, and his family more demanding that she marry him, Li Lan’s involvement with the Lim family becomes even murkier and potentially dangerous. With its gripping tangles of plot and engaging characters, this truly compelling read is sure to garner much well-deserved attention. --Julie Trevelyan
"'The Ghost Bride', an impressive first novel, takes readers on one of the wildest rides since Alice fell down the rabbit hole." (San Jose Mercury News)
"What makes all this work is the sumptuous world of Chinese émigré culture and the love story that flows under it all--the kind so full of longing, the pages practically sigh as you turn each one." (Book of the Week - Oprah.com)
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If you read other reviews on Amazon about this book they might suggest to you what it's about. But I wouldn't advise reading any review that tells all about the book with 'spoilers' included. I never understand people who feel they have to tell all about the characters & what they did. It's not a book report.
The point of a review is to invite people to read a book or not. If you hated the book you could say that the plot was predictable or there was no plot at all. Or the characters were weak & lifeless.
If you enjoyed a book then you can say how the characters were well developed and exciting. Or the plot is woven carefully with purpose. But when you basically reveal the secrets of a book in a review then I feel sorry for whoever stumbles upon such a review because it ruins the fun of reading the book on our own.
Why not discover all the great things yourself. I went into this book not knowing one thing about it. Honest. And that's how I usually go into books or movies. I don't want to know even a hint of it.
So, I recommend this book to those who are looking for something new or different. It's not the standard piece of fiction. I adored the main character. She grew and matured through-out the book. She learned things. She made mistakes too - like all of us. She is a really believable and solid person. And that's necessary to carry out the rest of the story which is rather fantasy like and surreal.
If you don't like this book - I'd be very surprised. And I'd want to know why. Thank you.
The atmosphere, the fast pace, the constant surprises, the unfamiliar backdrop...it all works together to create something truly intriguing and difficult to put down. This is one of those books that I neglected sleep and work in order to keep reading.
The story is of Li Lin, whose father was once wealthy and important but is now buried in debts, and who has been asked by the extremely wealthy Lim family to become the "ghost bride" for their recently deceased son. As his bride, she would participate in a wedding ceremony (with a rooster standing in for the groom) and move into his family's mansion where she would be well cared for all her life. She would also never know love or have children and - in a supernatural twist that shifts this book between the real world and a world of ghosts and Chinese mythology - our heroine might just be haunted by the young man's ghost.
To tell you any more would give away too many delightful twists, but expect to be immersed in a strange, beautiful world that shifts between old-world Malaya and the ghost world behind the scenes.
I'm no history buff on this time period, but so much of the dialogue came across too modern in my opinion. I think of the movies The Last Samuri and Memoirs of a Geisha, and feel like they give a good sense of time, place, and history - especially with the language and dialogue of the characters. I don't get that here. If I read some of the conversations out of context, I'd likely get the feeling it was a different culture, but not really another time. There are several details about the ruling world powers, and who has colonized where, but that's about it.
I did not like the way that Li Lan would use an italicized native word, then stop to explain it. It was like the story was being told specifically to an English reader after the fact, not like the story was actually happening in the moment. For example: "I huddled against it like a timid pelandok, or mouse deer. We have many local stories of the mouse deer, so tiny that a man could pick one up and stuff it into a bag with ease." Then she goes on for an entire paragraph about the habits of the mouse deer and how you catch one.
I felt like the plot had such good points, but the connecting of them was weak. There were times during the story that from one sentence to the next you'd be told that days or weeks had passed (with no details). In a story where much of the plot depended on a deadline, that really tended to drag down the story. During her time in the Plains of the Dead, Li Lan was really on a ticking clock. And it seemed like she kind of just tripped along and hoped that something happened to help her or change things. She ended up having to pretend to be part of a household staff at one point, and the story talks about one day doing serving tasks and then pretty much says after almost ten days of this...then something else happened.
I agree with other reviewers that the mystery wasn't properly dealt with. There's an evil plot going on, bad guys behind it, and eventually people just admit to stuff and then you get the impression that they are going to be punished, but there's no follow through.
I felt like the ending was particularly unsatisfactory. It was almost like the core personalities of certain characters changed from the beginning to the end of the book without reason or explanation to allow the ending to fit better. It seemed like when the writer was done with a character, she just told you their ending without really tying it into the ongoing story, and then you just never heard about them again. And, again, ultimately the reader is told rather than shown the ending of the story, which really just kind of made it fall flat for me.