A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists.
"One evening, my father asked me whether 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, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. 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 Lims' 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.
©2013 Yangsze Choo (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
I would definitely recommend the audio edition over the print. I didn't have to struggle with pronunciations and could just relax and listen.
Er Lang - who turned out to be a surprise (at least to me). I really enjoyed his personality.
Yangsze Choo was an excellent narrator. I loved how she performed each character and made them different.
Li Lan, of course, being the main character!
The author does a tremendous job of drawing the reader/listener in to her world. I loved the way the author described each scene in detail, It made me want to learn more about why the author wrote it and if any of the portions of the book were based on actual customs or folk tales.
Not bad. It wasn't exactly what I expected, however. Fantasy novel or Ghost story? It was a bit weird, but the Chinese lore was fascinating in that way. Li Lan made so many references to the afterlife having distinct parallels to the life of the living. I thought this was going somewhere and she would learn some moral or truth (whatever), but nothing ever came of this. I was left to come to my own conclusions there, which is fine except that I felt that she was building to something that never came. Many parts were slow for me, hence the 3 stars, but it wasn't bad.
Having the author read this book added to the feeling of otherworldliness. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the activities of the dead that are going on all around but unseen by the world of the living. Great characters and an unusual and diverting story.
I don't know but I really loved the audible. The author's narration was wonderful.
I loved Erlang but Lelan was wonderful as well.
I have never listened to her before.
I think this is a wonderful version of the book and I really enjoyed every word of this. It is very dramatic and mystical and I love that it is about the spirit world.
This books has it all: adventure, comedy, romance, mystery, faraway places and times. It's the only audiobook I have listened to twice. The romance is unique and believable. The narration (by the author!) is perfect--plus the author has a beautiful voice. The only drawback to this book is that it doesn't have a sequel.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I really wish I could have liked this book better than I did. It's kind of a 3.5, but I just can't quite give it a full 4. The premise is a good one, but the execution was somewhat disappointing. In the first half of the book the pacing was somewhat lethargic, as if the author just didn’t know how to get past the set-up and dig into the story. That at least improved significantly in the second half as the promise of a very interesting spirit world journey took over. There was a central mystery for Li Lan to solve in order to solve her own problems, adding some rooting interest to her plight. I like a good ghost story, and I really did enjoy the Chinese mythology and the supernatural creatures of the spirit world. That was the best written part of the book, obviously the story the author wanted to tell.
However, throughout the story, the characters were somewhat flat, behaving more for the convenience of the plot as opposed to having fully developed personalities of their own. Li Lan shifted from naïve to resourceful, from helplessly submissive to fiercely independent at will, depending on what moved the plot forward at the time. Twists were predictable and seen far off by the reader, while the characters, mainly Li Lan, remained oblivious to the obvious. If a reader is interested in the unique cultural setting and mythology and can be forgiving of these shortcomings of character development and plot movement, there is essentially a good story here.
I really enjoyed this story as strange as it was. It was enticing with all the twists and turns. The Chinese beliefs of that time were certainly unusual to hear but I found it very enticing.
This is a very original story. I've read plenty of supernatural tales, but have never read anything like this before.
Li Lan is a young, intelligent, and beautiful woman living in Malaya in 1893. Unfortunately, as her family fortunes have dwindled, her chances of making a good marriage have as well. The wealthy and powerful Lim family offers her father an "out": if Li Lan will become a "ghost bride" for their newly deceased son, they will forgive his debts, and Li Lan will live a life of luxury as a widow in their home. She will want for nothing, except love and children of her own. Li Lan refuses their offer, and the Lims become ever more frantic. Soon, Li Lan herself is haunted by the young man's very insistent ghost.
The story is told in a leisurely fashion (at several points a little too leisurely!), and the plot takes several sharp and unexpected turns. Original as the story is, the resolution is more than a little unsatisfying.
On the whole though, it's seriously worth a listen. I'm looking forward to more from this author.
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