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The Ghost Bride

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  13,380 Ratings  ·  2,398 Reviews
"One evening, my father asked me if 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 propos
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by William Morrow (first published 2013)
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Marloes Baren When contrasting YA and adult novel there are very few characteristics which classify books as either one or the other.

However it seems that most YA…more
When contrasting YA and adult novel there are very few characteristics which classify books as either one or the other.

However it seems that most YA fiction is specifically geared towards a younger audience, even when not being exclusive. And I wouldn't say that is the case here.
Even though the protagonist is a young girl, the challenges she faces in the Malaysia of the late 19th/early 20th century are not necessarily characteristic for the challenges young adults face in 'our world' today. And language wise there are also no signs this book was ever specifically intended for a younger audience, though many young readers can and would certainly enjoy it.(less)

Community Reviews

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Before I start the book review, I’d like to bring you all to hell.

The Chinese Ten Courts of Hell, that is.

This particular hell is located at Haw Par Villa, Singapore. I first entered its dark depths in August 2006, and remember recoiling in horror when I saw a few bloody scenes you can view here.

So what are the Ten Courts of Hell? According to Chinese mythology, souls must enter these courts to be judged for the sins they committed in the land of the living. Each court deals with different sins
Khanh (the meanie)
It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures, we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts.
The star of this book is not Li Lan. It is not her book; the focal point is not the very mild romance, it is not the mystery. The overwhelming show-stealer is the setting, the background, the history, the superstition and traditional beliefs of turn-of-the-century Malaya.

I am Asian myself and I maintain my love of Asian culture despite having immigrated t
Apr 09, 2013 Orsolya rated it did not like it
Imagine having to marry a deceased bridegroom. Yes, you read that correctly. Although uncommon, this was the practice among some folk-lore practicing Chinese and is the ill-fate of Li Lan , a young woman in 19th century Malyasia in “The Ghost Bride” by Yangzse Choo.

Despite some beautiful imagery and scene settings, “The Ghost Bride” is painfully slow. Even though it has the calming zen-like presence common to most Asian historical fiction novels; the plot is halted, as well. Choo has the habit
May 09, 2013 Nicole~ rated it it was amazing
I see dead people....

Li Lan, the motherless Chinese maiden, whose opium-addicted father has betrothed her to the deceased son of a wealthy family, accidentally finds herself roaming the Plains of the Dead - a terrifying afterworld where ghosts wait around to be judged, punished or reborn to new lives.
 photo fda52b23-625a-4740-8e34-6021b0c1879a_zps97b30f0b.jpg

Within the ghost world, she embarks on a supernatural adventure, filled with highly imaginative, colorful characters including horned demons, corrupt judges and shape-shifting otherwordly beings.

Aug 30, 2013 kari rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
In a word: disappointing.
This started out so positively, the first page had me hooked and then it went downhill, fell apart, became tedious and ended up a mess.
I think the main problem I have is that Li Lan is such a nothing character, sorry to say. She isn't interesting and has no personality. She has been educated in a fashion, that's the sum total of who she is. And she is like a child, easily distracted and believing of anything anyone anywhere tells her. Someone says this person( a good per
Aug 09, 2013 Margot rated it it was amazing
This was a beautifully written and touching novel. Fans of Peony in Love or Hayao Miyazaki's film Spirited Away will not be disappointed. The heroine of this story grows from a demure and spoiled girl into a confident and courageous woman. The world that Yangsze Choo creates is fantastic, more so because they reflect actual beliefs about the afterlife. This book has romance, terror, adventure and even some humor thrown in too. Ghost Bride earned every one of its stars
Aug 05, 2013 Hazellie rated it it was amazing
I am a Chinese Malaysian, born about a hundred years after the period this story takes place, and even I, jaded as I am about the state Malaysian is in now, find The Ghost Bride fascinating.

It's interesting to remember how people lived back then, before Malaysia was Malaysia, when it was still Malaya and under the British rule, how the various immigrants and cultures intersect.

What I enjoyed most is imagining how this story could've very well been my own family's story. Not the ghost bride par
Jody McGrath
Apr 06, 2017 Jody McGrath rated it really liked it
Li Lan is a young woman from a family that was once prestigious but is in decline in Malaya, 1893. Unbeknownst to her, she had been betrothed to the second heir of the very rich Lin Family, Tian Bai. But when the first heir dies, the family wants Tian Bai to marry for status and they ask Li Lan's father if she will marry their dead son and become his ghost bride. This is a seldom used custom where a living person is married to a dead person and assumes the role of their widow for the rest of the ...more
Li Lian
Apr 15, 2013 Li Lian rated it it was amazing
Having grown up in Singapore, with a mother from Malaysia, I was thrilled to read a book set in Malacca, a town I visited many times in my childhood. Yangsze Choo has done a fantastic job of creating the mood and place of Malacca. She has clearly done her homework!

Her novel is a great read, full of adventure and twists and turns, I could barely put it down once I started into it. I loved the detailed descriptions of the clothing and food. It made me nostalgic for yummy Malaysian food!

I see a seq
May 07, 2015 ☮Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, read-in-2015
The first chapters of The Ghost Bride had me hooked. I have always enjoyed reading about Asian families, Asian history and culture. The audio is narrated quite beautifully by the author, and it was very calming to listen to her as the atmosphere and characters were formed.

Then the dream sequences began and an endless journey into an underground spirit world. I came off that hook I was attached to real fast, as new character after new character was introduced and the storyline went off into fant
Melody Chua
Aug 12, 2013 Melody Chua rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Farrand
Li Lan a woman on the edge of childhood and womanhood gained a proposal from a famously rich dead son. Crazy, right? Terrorized by his ghost leads her through a journey to solve a cloudy mystery.

Clearly, I really liked this book. It had everything that enticed me; folklore, spirits, beautiful scenery, mystery, and romance. I would agree with some reviewers that this story is not really about Li Lan. It wasn't about her romance or the mystery. She was only the medium. The book was about culture,
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Aug 05, 2013 Shelby *trains flying monkeys* rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
When I was a little girl I found a set of books that had folk lore tales in them. They had China, Japan and several other countries stories-I inhaled them all. I love, love, love that kind of thing.
This book is like that. Go into it with an open mind. When I first heard of it I kept wondering how the heck do you marry a ghost? The author answered that very well.
It surprises you in the thinking that it's going to be a love story. It really isn't. Twists and turns at every junction. But enjoy the
Diane S ☔
Apr 14, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
This is probably not a book I should have read, I think it is brilliantly written and it is certainly about a little explored subject. The tone is almost dreamy, which is expected because so much of the book takes place in dreams. Which leads me to my problem with the book, I love learning about new cultures, so Malaysia as the country was enticing. It was just too much fantasy for me, too much of the dreaming and the dead. Just not my cup of tea, but I know others have loved and will love this ...more
Apr 03, 2017 Haiiro rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tôi lấy làm tiếc phải nói rằng, cái được nhất ở tiểu thuyết này là... cái bìa sách. Và vì thế, xin được trân trọng gửi tặng 0.5* trong tổng số 2* cho ekip làm sách có tâm của IPM.
Làm dâu cõi chết y như kiểu một phiên bản Hoa kiều Malaysia dài hơi của mấy tiểu thuyết fantasy của Phan Hồn Nhiên từng làm tôi muốn cụng đầu vào tường một thời vậy. Yangsze Choo phát triển tình huống theo kiểu, mình thích nó thế thì nó phải thế thôi, chuyện khác thì miễn quan tâm. Anh logic, xin mời anh ra đảo chọi dừa

The title of the book captured my attention immediately. I just had to read it.

Li Lan, the eighteen-year-old narrator stemmed from a Chinese family who settled in Malaya in the 1800s. Although there were various other influences in their lives from the multitude of cultures present at the time, including the British influences, her family, as most Chinese families, still maintained their own belief systems. Hence it resulted in her being subjected to one of the traditions of providing prosperity
Aug 18, 2013 Amanda rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this novel. The cover is intriguing as is the book jacket's summary. The novel even has the makings of a grand complication that I can't spell out here without spoilers. Though I have to wonder how many non-supernatural readers picked this up only to find themselves knee deep in the afterlife?

I'm not finishing this book despite being up to chapter 7. The reasons are:
1) The main character reeks of "virginal sweet girl." You can almost peel her off the page with just how a "
Jan 27, 2013 Kara-karina rated it it was amazing
Simply put, The Ghost Bride is fantastic. I went into this book fully expecting historical fiction with a murder mystery twist. What I got is a delightful paranormal story the likes of Spirited Away.

The book starts slow describing an impoverished Chinese family in Malaya. Li Lan's mother died when when she was little, and she basically grew up with her grieving dad who smokes so much opium that he managed to lose family fortune and any prospects for his daughter to make a pr
Jul 31, 2013 Jacqie rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars! Looking at the cover of this book, I expected some slow-moving historical fiction kind of like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Instead I got a book that could easily have been put into the genre section (scifi/fantasy) but has been marketed as "literary fiction" because that's where the acclaim and hopefully for this author, the money will be.

To be clear, saying that the book is like genre fiction is a compliment from me.

This plot of the book hinges on a practice I had n
Mar 26, 2017 Giovanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giving a book four stars again is as precious as Kageyama's smile. *.______.*

“We Chinese did not like to give or receive certain gifts for superstitious reasons: knives, because they could sever a relationship; handkerchiefs, for they portended weeping; and clocks, as they were thought to measure out the days of your life.”

Might not seem an important quote, or a memorable one, but it honestly portrays pretty much perfectly why I loved this. The Ghost Bride does not shine for its characters or it
Mar 22, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing
"I usually only read nonfiction, but my wife insisted I immediately read the Ghost Bride. I picked it up and couldn't put it down. I was transported into a world that I knew about, but for the first time, felt that I experienced it. Now, every time I see reminders of the Chinese afterlife, I will always think "adventure" just as it was for Li Lan. I hope the author writes a sequel!
One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride.

There really is a severe lack of Southeast Asian representation in popular literature, not just YA. The Ghost Bride proves that. I was born and raised in Singapore, that tiny country neighbouring Malaysia (or Malaya as it used to be/is in this book - we were even part of them for, like, two years), so knowing Choo Yangsze broke out in the publishing world with a young adult novel set in 1890s Malaya was both extremely
Jul 28, 2013 Beth rated it it was ok
When you have few prospects for a marriage, and your father is so addicted to opium that those prospects get fewer by the day, is becoming a ghost bride really the worst that could happen?

Li Lan is the only daughter in a Chinese family in Malaya. Her family, once reasonably respectable, has fallen far after her mother's death and her father's ensuing addiction to opium. So when a wealthy neighboring family suggests Li Lan as a ghost bride for the dead son, her father mentions it to her in passin
Jun 09, 2013 Laurie rated it it was amazing
In Malaya in the 1890s, 19 year old Li Lan lives with her opium addicted, widowed father. Formerly a wealthy man, opium use has caused her father to trust the business to partners who took all his money, leaving them alone in a big house with only a cook, a maid, and Li Lan’s Amah- the nurse/nanny who brought up Li Lan and also her mother. While having three servants sounds fabulous to our modern mindset, in that time and place it was the bare minimum.

Li Lan is in danger of becoming an old maid
Nov 06, 2013 Juliette rated it did not like it
What a disappointment. I wanted to love this book so badly, and I loved the first hundred pages or so. The author began with the tale of a young girl from a poor family, Li Lan, who is propositioned to be the bride of the spirit a recently deceased rich man. He begins to haunt her dreams, and she is drawn into his (creepy) family.
Sounds great, right? That was the first hundred pages. The next two hundred pages reads like a video game. (view spoiler)
CW (Read Think Ponder)
I feel like I've read a lot of ownvoices books in the last few months, but this book, with its setting, characters, and cultural context, felt like it was just for me.
And that's what makes this book special to me.

- More than just historical fiction: also incorporates elements of fantasy, paranormal, romance, and mystery.
- Amazing, amazing setting and worldbuilding: set in dreamy Malacca but the story also takes you to more otherworldly planes.
- Very accessible to anyone and everyone, especiall
3 bintang

Buku terjemahan pertama yang dibaca untuk #ProjectBacaBukuCetak. Dipilih karena ada di bagian paling atas di timbunan, hohoho.

Suka sama cover terjemahannya dan terus terang walau sempat parno mau baca Ghost Bride karena elemen hantunya, nyatanya malah ga nakutin. Halah, merinding disko aja ngga :v. Adanya malah pengen nabokin si tokoh utamanya Li Lan. Ni cewe dah naif, sembrono pula. Entah kenapa sikapnya kadang sama kayak Bella Swan. Bahkan hubungan dia sama Er Lang kok agak2 mirip Bel
Kayla Beck
Review originally posted on Bibliophilia, Please.

Being as a tend to read a lot of young adult novels, it is easy for me to forget out delicious a well-written piece of literary fiction can be. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo is a beautiful novel that satiated my adult reading hungers. Journeying with Li Lan through the spirit world and watching her meet various spirits unfold the mysteries surrounding the Lim family and her own was mesmerizing.

Li Lan is very similar at first to many of the f
Abigail Wen
Apr 09, 2013 Abigail Wen rated it it was amazing
The Ghost Bride is a richly atmospheric and well-researched tale set in colonial Malaysia. I was completely caught up in the love story and read late into the night to find out what would happen to Li Lan.

Choo details a sinister and intriguing Chinese afterlife with many recognizable signposts in the real world. It’s a stunning debut that has stayed with me long after I finished.
Laura Kump
Aug 15, 2013 Laura Kump rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I am a huge Amy Tan fan as her books always take me on a journey. I had heard this book being compared to Tan's so it got my attention. The author may not have Tan's style, but she surely has storytelling abilities. I was pulled in immediately and kept going until I finished. Took me two days. Great story and character. Loved it and highly recommend it.
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Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a management consultant and at a startup before writing her first novel. Yangsze eats and reads too much, and often does both at the same time. You can follow her blog at or on Twitter @yangszechoo
More about Yangsze Choo...

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“In the darkness of a thousand
withered souls, it was Er Lang’s hand that I
sought, and his voice that I longed to hear. Perhaps
it is selfish of me, but an uncertain future
with him, in all its laughter and quarrels, is better
than being left behind.”
“The Chinese considered the moon to be yin, feminine and full of negative energy, as opposed to the sun that was yang and exemplified masculinity. I liked the moon, with its soft silver beams. It was at once elusive and filled with trickery, so that lost objects that had rolled into the crevices of a room were rarely found, and books read in its light seemed to contain all sorts of fanciful stories that were never there the next morning.” 26 likes
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