Monday, August 18, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride. ~ Opening from The Ghost Bride



The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
William Morrow, 2013
Fiction; 368 pgs
From the Publisher: 
A wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists. 
Malaya, 1893 Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt Chinese family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives a proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, ghost marriages are often meant to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a comfortable home for the rest of her days, but at what cost? 
As she reluctantly considers the offer, Li Lan is unwillingly drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities and vengeful spirits. There 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.
I knew at first sight I had to read this book.  The cover is beautiful and the description of what lie between its pages promised an intriguing story.  True to expectation, I was smitten from the first page.   I fell in love with the writing and Li Lan and her Amah and Mr. Wong.  I was just as eager to see Er Lang's face as Li Lan was as she journeyed in the afterlife.

The author seamlessly takes the reader from the real world into the dream world and also into the afterlife. She spins a tale of love and revenge and family secrets.  All of this set in a colonial Malaya, wrapped in its history, superstitions and traditions.  I really got a feel for what life must have been like for Li Lan, and the dilemma she was in.  She could easily erase her father's debts by accepting the proposal, but to do so would be to give in to a life she does not want to live.  She is such a kind soul, well meaning and innocent.  I liked her right away and wanted only the best for her.

She is being haunted by Lim Tian Ching, the son of a wealthy business man, who wants to marry her, a man who invades her dreams.  She wants only to be rid of him, but is unsure how to go about it.  Lim Tian seems to have some sort of special privilege in the afterlife, making him even more of a threat to Li Lan and her family. Besides marrying Li Lan, he wants to avenge his death, believing his cousin, Tian Bai, murdered him. Maybe in solving that mystery, Li Lan will find peace.

The Lim family was made up of interesting characters, not all of which were likable.  They have their own secrets that they would dearly love to keep hidden.  So much was said in a look and in a stance.  I liked how subtle the author was at times in conveying what was going on behind the scenes without being overly obvious.

The afterlife the author created is multi-layered, based on religious and cultural belief as well as imagination.  The way Li Lan is drawn in, the journey she takes, the people she meets . . . I did not want to stop reading, not even for a minute.  I wanted to know more about the demons and just who Er Lang, her guide in the afterlife is.  Even when Li Lan had no reason to sympathize with those who would harm her, she still felt for them.  This was true in her present life too.  She puts her life in very real danger the longer and farther she goes away from her own body, and yet she persists.

The end.  Oh, the end!  I confess I could see Li Lan going in several directions at the end, but ultimately, I think she made the best decision for her. I would have chosen that path too.

There was so much I loved about this novel as I read, from the cultural aspects to the story and the characters.   This is a book I will be recommending to just about everyone, I think.


Rating: * (Very Good +)

To learn more about Yangsze Choo and her book, please visit the author's website

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Ghost Bride on the TLC Book Tours route!


Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided a copy of the book for review, but I was impatient and bought and read an e-copy before the print copy arrived.



© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

20 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this story too, Wendy, and I'm glad you did too! :)

    As for the ending, I couldn't think of anything else but Li Lan's decision. I think she'd made the right choice, given everything happened.

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    1. Melody - I saved your review, but haven't read it yet. I will today. :-) I am glad to hear you liked it too!

      I really had no idea what she would decide until she decided it. I could see her going in other directions. But, as you said, I think she made the right choice considering all she'd been through.

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  2. This sounds interesting. I know a little bit about ghost brides and it sounds like this one went in an interesting direction. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'll have to look for it. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Katherine - The idea of a ghost bride was fairly new to me, although I was vaguely aware of the term before going into the book. I admit I was worried at first this book would be a little too surreal for my tastes, but it wasn't at all. I really enjoyed the novel.

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  3. This is very different from what I typically read but you've really piqued my interest. I'm looking forward to reading this book.

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    1. Kathy - It'd be interesting to get your take on it, especially given that it is outside your usual reading tastes. I hope you do give it a try.

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  4. I've added this one to my list. I think I did so after you did the "would you keep reading?" post. Now, I want it even more.

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    1. Jenclair - I hope you like it if you read it, Jenclair. I really liked it!

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  5. I've seen this one making its round in blogland and it sounds really good! The premise along with the Chinese folklore in the storyline sound very interesting. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

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    1. Naida - I enjoyed it quite a bit. I look forward to seeing what else the author comes up with.

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  6. Oh this sounds so good! I haven't been reading too many Chinese fiction lately because many have started to sound very similar. But this one does sound very good. I don't think I've heard of ghost brides, so I will have to check this out.

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    1. Athira - It's been too long since I last did, and so I was excited to read The Ghost Bride. It was worth it too. I think you might like it. Hopefully. :-)

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  7. This sounds very different from something I would usually enjoy, but you have definitely piqued my interest!

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    1. Elizabeth - It was different--and not quite what I expected--but I really enjoyed it.

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  8. I'm glad you enjoyed so much about this book! Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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  9. I've been so intrigued by this book since I first heard about it but wasn't sure if the writing would stand up to the plot premise, if you know what I mean. I'm so glad it does!

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    1. Aarti - I really enjoyed the story and characters, Aarti. I actually was afraid it would be a little over my head or surreal, but it was extremely readable and accessible.

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  10. I really thought about getting in on this tour but decided I couldn't do any more. Dang, I missed a good one!

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    1. Lisa - I know what you mean. I think I overdid it for September!

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