A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.
When 11-year-old Ren's master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master's soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.
Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother's Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin's dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.
As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren's lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.
Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick, Amazon Spotlight Pick for Best Book of the Month, NYTimes and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller. Starred Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly reviews.
Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. Due to a childhood spent in various countries, she can eavesdrop (badly) in several languages. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a management consultant 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 http://yschoo.com/ or on Twitter @yangszechoo
Malaya, with its mix of Malays, Chinese, and Indians, is full of spirits: a looking-glass world governed by unsettling rules.
3½ stars. I may need to think some more about this one. I'm giving it a tentative 3½, rounded up to 4 because I absolutely loved that this historical mystery was steeped in Chinese and Malaysian mythology and superstition.
For the most part, this was such a gorgeous and evocative read. The Night Tiger is set in 1930s Malaya and leans heavily on folklore and stories of ghosts and weretigers. It's a slower paced novel - especially in the middle - though I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing here. Choo gradually paints a portrait of this time and place, rife with belief in weretigers, possession, and that a person must be buried whole before the 49 days of the soul are over.
This last belief fuels the mission of 11-year-old Ren. After his master, Dr. Macfarlane, dies, Ren goes to fulfill his promise of returning the doctor's amputated finger before the 49 days are up. He is sent with a letter of recommendation to British doctor William Acton - the man said to have performed the amputation many years ago - and begins his search for the missing digit.
Alongside this is the story of Ji Lin. Refused the chance to be a doctor because she is a girl, Ji Lin instead works as a dancehall girl, unbeknownst to her abusive stepfather and beloved stepbrother. When a handsy dance partner one night leaves something behind, she discovers to her horror that it is a severed finger. The dance partner in question is shortly found dead. Soon a mysterious man is showing up, following Ji Lin around, and asking questions.
The real world and the supernatural overlap in many ways, as do different beliefs about the supernatural. When a woman is found brutally killed, questions arise: Is a murderer on the loose in the Kinta Valley? Is it a tiger attack? If it is a tiger attack, could it be a weretiger? Or, perhaps, is it Dr. Macfarlane's spirit trapped inside the beast?
Malaya was - and Malaysia still is - a society of many different cultures. These various peoples' superstitions all play a part in this novel, fuelling doubts and fears. Ren fears his master lives on as a tiger; Ji Lin draws on lucky and unlucky numbers, as well as the five Confucian virtues, to see meaning in things. Though the supernatural is heavily-implied, it is impossible to be quite sure how much is grounded in reality.
There were a couple of things I didn't like, hence the lower rating. One was the inclusion of so many flashbacks and dream sequences. I mentioned before the slow pacing, and I think the parts of the book which dragged the most were those that lingered too long in bizarre dreams. I've never been a fan of hearing about other people's dreams, and it definitely grew tedious here.
Second, I really disliked the stepsister/brother romance. Not my thing at all. I don't know why so many authors do this. There's just no need. If your sibling/step-sibling is starting to look hot, get yourself out of the house. Seriously.
These complaints, especially the latter, had a big effect on my reading experience, but I still thought The Night Tiger was a really good book. I loved the quiet, eerie, magical feel of it all. I think maybe I need to read The Ghost Bride.
This was so great! I was thrown off a bit by the romance, because this book would've been fine and dandy without it. I loved learning more about the Malaysian culture through this story, I thought the somewhat magical bits in the story were executed so well, and the Chinese folklore was super interesting to learn about. It's an engaging read with an excellent pay off.
Five jaw-dropping, unforgettable tango of lyrical mysticism and coming of age !
This book is magic! It connects five different characters by the meaning of their names and ties their destinies by unexpected mysterious road between life and death!
It’s about life after death, love, siblings’ affection, abuse, feminism and awakening of women by discovering their own capabilities, murder, passion, class system, Malaysian and Chinese folklore with vivid characters and captivating storytelling.
The author combined those different subjects exquisitely and did a meticulous, detailed work!
The story starts with the promise of Ren, 11 years old boy whose life purpose is finding out the missing finger of his recently deceased master to give him his peace and prevent him return back from death by disguised in wild tiger body that kills to feed his hunger. He has only 49 days left to find it and bury it in his grave before his soul has elapsed!
And other main character, Jin Li, sewing dresses, dancing with men to pay her mother’s debt, recently gave up on her dreams because of her stepfather accidentally finds the finger. And she needs the help of her taciturn brother who is a doctor for finding out whose finger it was.
This book makes you question if the superstitions, lucky numbers , rituals designate how we live and how we should make our choices!
Could the vengeance of spirits and ghosts affect our lives? Could the people who died with unfinished business reach us in our dreams and govern the critical choices we make?
I loved the murder mystery, taboo relationship/ love story, poignant, soul caressing words and the amazing imagination of the gifted writer who did fantastic job to give us an unforgettable journey to the miraculous worlds by broadening our minds!
Yangsze Choo writes an enthralling and exhilarating piece of well researched historical fiction set in the British colony of Malaya (Malaysia) of the 1930s. The fraught and upset British doctor is dying and worried about what will happen to his soul upon death. He had been gifted a 11 year old Chinese house boy, Ren, by a friend. Ren is a kind, loyal and compassionate boy and when his dying master on his deathbed asks that he finds his severed finger and bury it with his dead body to prevent his soul from roaming the earth forever, he complies. However, he must do this within 49 days, adding a strong sense of urgency to his time sensitive obstacle ridden quest. Ren is to find his path crosses with that of Ji-Lin, a bright and intelligent woman, whose ambitions to be a doctor have been thwarted by her step father. This is a atmospheric story of tradition, culture, masters, servants, love and the dead, incorporating the central role of Chinese mythology and folklore, colonisation, dreams and superstition.
Ji-Lin is a trainee dressmaker, who is secretly working as a dance hall girl, Louise, at the Flower Dance Hall to pay off her mother's mahjong debts. One night, she dances with Chan Yew Cheung, who leaves her with a shrivelled finger in a vial, ensuring her fate is intertwined and indelibly connected with that of young Ren. There are strange and bizarre deaths that occur amidst rampant tales of tigers that can take on human form, magical shapeshifters. Choo's writing is beautiful in this gorgeously immersive read, with rich descriptions that give us a fabulous sense of location and this historical era. There is suspense and intrigue in this multilayered and fascinating depiction of Malaya, the importance of tigers within the culture, and the role of superstition in carving out fate and destiny. I loved the well developed central characters of Ren and Ji-Lin, particularly Ji-Lin, she is a strong woman, although I am not so certain about the romance elements that involved her. This is captivating and imaginative storytelling in which Choo expertly weaves together the disparate threads within a narrative that includes secrets, family, sibling relationships and ghosts. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo is a 2019 Flatiron publication.
A big, bold story full of magic, romance, mystery and adventure!!
Set in Malaysia during the 1930’s, the story alternates between Ren, an eleven -year old Chinese houseboy and Ji Lin, a young woman who has been forced to give up her goal of working in the medical profession. Ren is on a mission to find his late master’s finger so he can return it to his grave. Failure to do so within 49 days will prevent his master from resting in peace. Meanwhile, Ji Lin, is working as a dressmaker, while also secretly moonlighting as a dance hall girl to pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts, before her hardened stepfather finds out.
When Ji Lin comes into possession of a severed finger, she implores her stepbrother, Shin, to help her return it to its rightful owner. Thus, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives will begin to converge. While the clock ticks away within the 49 -day time frame, a tiger is on the prowl wreaking havoc on the city of Malaysia.
There is a lot going on in this book and because it’s not exactly my usual fare, I was forced to take my time and slowly absorb all the details patiently, as the pieces of the puzzle begin to click into place. I found myself completely caught up in the story, in the folklore and magic realism, the family dramas and mystery. I was loath to put the book aside, but still wanted to draw it out and relish the tension and adventure.
Unfortunately, I did have a few issues with the book. One thing I noticed was some repetitiveness in the dialogue. It was especially noticeable when I was listening to portions of the book on audio.
The other problem I had was that while I placed a hold on both the e book and the audiobook at my library at the same time, the audio version became available first. However, I had to pause the audio until the e book became available because I found it very difficult to follow along. The author narrates the book, but the inflections and voice changes were not strong enough or distinct enough for me, and the switch in narratives often caught me off guard. Once I had a digital copy of the book, however, the story came to life and I was able to switch between reading and listening seamlessly.
I love historical fiction, but rarely reach for books with magical realism elements. I’m a little picky about that genre but do enjoy it from time to time. I do love folklore, though, so in this case, the two genres complement one another beautifully. Now, I’m wondering why I don’t read more of these types of books and am thinking maybe I should lower my defenses and try reading more of them. I will definitely check out Choo’s first novel and anything she writes in the future.
This book should appeal to a broad audience as it embodies several different popular genres and creates an insular world with its intense urgency and emotional content. While I did read some stellar reviews for this book, I couldn’t have imagined what kind of journey I was about to embark on, but it is a journey I will not soon forget.
this story is a magically woven tapestry of history, lore, superstition, love, and destiny. with lush storytelling told humbly from the perspectives of seemingly unconnected people, each thread of their beautiful stories intertwines and unfolds in the most rewarding way, making this novel feel like a work of art - a rich art piece that harmoniously integrates all the best kinds of storytelling. coming of age. mystery and thrill. mythology and folklore. romance and friendships. each story, each character comes together so impressively, so effortlessly.
The Night Tiger has a little bit of something for everyone! Fans of this Author's debut book, The Ghost Bride will love this sweeping tale set in Malaya (Malaysia) in the 1930's. There is a lot going on in this book that I am only going to give a brief synopsis of the main characters.
Ren is an 11-year-old boy on a mission to locate his former masters missing finger so that he can bury it with his body. He has 49 days to do so for his master to be a rest. If he fails to find the missing finger, his master will be doomed to roam the earth forever.
Ji Lin is a young woman who works as an apprentice to a dressmaker. She is intelligent and had dreams of going into medicine, but being born a female at this time, she must do as her stepfather wishes. While learning to make dresses, she moonlights as a dance hall girl to pay off her mother's Mahjong debts. One night she dances with a man and takes a small container from his pocket - in it, a finger! She begins a quest to find out just why this man had this in his pocket and where it came from.
The Night tiger uses history, Chinese superstition, folklore and mysticism. This book is an intricately woven tale of two characters as they grow and evolve on a collision course to learn the truth. Choo utilizes many themes: the class system of servant and master, sibling rivalry, domestic abuse, the afterlife, superstition, romance, coming of age, and even were-tigers.
This book is full of beautifully written passages, vivid descriptions and imagery. This book has a mystery which unites all the characters. It was easy to be sucked into the world that Choo has created. This book is as lush as the Malaysian jungle. I felt as if I experienced this book rather than read it. This book is atmospheric, captivating and intriguing. Yangsze Choo has a creative mind and a gift for writing intricate plots. The result is a beautiful journey into 1930's Malaya utilizing mystical elements and superstition.
Mark your calendars and be on the lookout next year when this book comes out!
Thank you to Yangsze Choo and Flat Iron books who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Another fabulous book - on sale today for $2.99 ( kindle download)
“Time is running out: there are only 20 days left before Dr. Mac Farlane’s forty-nine days of the soul are over. If by then he can’t find the finger, he’ll have failed. How will his old master rest? Ren remembers Dr. MacFarlane’s last days, shivering fevers. And then the dreams, the waking nightmares in which the old man would cry for mercy, or crawl slavering on all fours. If Auntie Kwan had still been with them, she would have taken charge, but in the end there was only Ren”. “A gust of wind shivers through the house, banging all the doors simultaneously. To Ren, peering out the window at the top of the stairs, the trees are a waving green ocean surrounding the Bungalow. It’s a ship in a storm, and Ren is the cabin boy peeking out of a porthole. Clutching the windowsill like a life buoy, Ren wonders what secrets lurk in the jungle surrounding them, and if his old master is in fact trapped in the form of a tiger”.
Ren is only 11 years old....a Chinese houseboy is on a mission to fulfill his formers master’s dying wish. His former master, Dr. MacFarlene, lost a finger due to an accident many years ago. Ren promised to find it and bury it with his body. The old age superstition says this ‘must’ happen in 49 Days...or his old master’s soul will wander the earth forever.
“Malaya, with its mix of Malays, Chinese, and Indians, is full of spirits: a looking-glass world governed by unsettling rules. The European werewolf is a man who, when the moon is full, turns his skin inside out and become a beast. He then leaves the village and goes into the forest to kill. But for the natives here, the weretiger is not a man, but a beast who, when he chooses, put on a human skin and comes from the jungle into the village to prey on humans. It’s almost exactly the reverse situation and in some ways more disturbing”. “There’s a rumor that when we colonials came to this part of the world, the natives, considered us beast-men as well, though nobody has said that to my face”.
William is Ren’s new master. Ren is grateful for the work. ....
Jin Lin was a rookie dressmaker....but the job as a student/apprentice wasn’t enough money to help get her mother out of a Financial jam. So on the side she secretly took a job working at the May Flower Dance Hall. It wasn’t trained professional dancing ( which she was), that they were looking for. She had to learn the ‘Tango’ fast. Jin Lin was bright- she wished she could have left for college - wished to study medicine and become a doctor like her stepbrother, Shin’s plans. ( they were born on the same day), and Jin Lin had higher marks in school, but the culture in the 1930’s, Malaysia for women wasn’t encouraging. So.....dressmaker/ dance hall dancer it was..... Big MAMA at the dance hall had Jin Lin Cut her long braids off to look more like a modern -western woman. In truth if her mother or stepfather knew what her moonlighting job was - it would have bad news. It was not considered respectable in her family at all! With the new dance name that big MAMA gave her - Louise- she got tapped by a salesman for a dance. When he asked her name, she forgot and gave her real name...and accidentally ends up with a thin walled cylinder made of glass - a specimen bottle - with a dried up finger inside.
Jin Lin’s 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 begins to get much more interesting- SHE’S BRIGHT - ZEALOUS- SHREWD - INGENIOUS.
This book is wonderful, covering a fascinating time period set in the 1930’s colonial Malaysia. ( called Malaya in the 1930’s). As you might be able to piece together - Ren and Jin Lin are going to cross paths. It’s filled with surprises- textured characters - ( engrossing sibling relationship), unexplained deaths - danger- humor - suspenseful turmoil - foods to make you hungry- ( I was so in the mood for steaming yummy noodles when I finished this novel), history - magical realism- ghosts - & tigers - forbidden love - Love -
I admit to an extra appreciation of my fingers, too.
Yangsze Choo’s writing was totally alluring giving attention to detail and descriptive prose. It also had the best ending!!!! I felt so warm and wonderful after finishing it.
Thank you Flatiron Publishing for sending me this novel. Many thanks to Yangsze Choo, too.
Quote - ( part of the full message to readers) from Yangsze: “As a child in Malaysia, I was fascinated by the black and white colonial Bungalo’s left behind by the British, many of which lie now in ruins. With their high ceilings and gracious windows, they spoke of a life that vanished—sort of Downton Abbey of the tropics with it shadowed interplay between servants and masters”. “The Night Tiger” came out of the secrets I imagined in those houses together with many of my favorite obsessions: Chinese dancehall girls, twins, men who turned into tigers, A train that takes you to the world of the dead. And of course a good mystery”.
I already read Yangsze Choo’s first novel, The Ghost Bride (my review here , so when I saw that a new book by the author is coming out I had to jump at the opportunity to read it. Unfortunately for The Night Tiger, I read it with the first one in my head and it was unavoidable to make comparisons. In my opinion, this second novel came out short. It was still an enjoyable read, easy to get through.
As the blurb states, the setting is 1930 Malaya. Ren, a 11 years old orphan is on a 49 days quest to find the missing finger of his newly deceased master so his soul can rest in peace. Ji Ji Lin, is officially an apprentice dressmaker and secretly also a dancehall girl in order to help pay off her mother's Mahjong debts. One night, one of her dance partners leaves her a severed finger by mistake. With the help of her step brother, just returned from Singapore for the Holidays, she tries to find the owner of the finger. As you can imagine, the path of the two characters will intersect.
What I liked about the first novel and also here, is the presence of Chinese-Malaya mythology such as weretigers, the underworld, the 5 Confucian virtues and all kinds of superstitions. However, in this one “evil spirits” were less creepy and some of the magical narratives were abandoned without a satisfactory conclusion.
Another thing that I loved about the first novel, was the beautiful description of old Malaya and its culture. Also, I remember even now how I salivated from the delicious food the author wrote about in the first book. I did not have the same sense of place when reading The Night Tiger and my taste buds felt nothing.
As I said, nonetheless, I enjoyed reading the story, the romance part was nice enough although a bit creepy and I plan to read more from the author. I just hope her editors will make a better job on those loose ends.
They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us... I loved the atmosphere of the book, the 'magical realism' mystery of it, the lush Asian environment, the historical character of the story, the dark and brooding story, loved it. Though the lovey dovey element in the book, which got stronger and stronger further in the story, I thought was less interesting and that brought the rating of this book down for me. Especially towards the end the story kind of lost a bit of magic for me. Would say just above 3.5, so rounded off 4. Certainly a good read and intriguing. Loved especially the boy Ren (and his brother 'waiting on the other side') and the mythical Asian story about the five connected characters.
In The Night Tiger, houseboy Ren must fulfill a promise he made to his dying master, which sets him off on a journey of discovery, magic, and danger. Along the way, he crosses paths with Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker who's forced to be a part time dance-hall girl to pay off her mother's debt. She knows she could be so much more, but money and circumstances dictate that she keep her dreams diminished.
There is so much that I enjoyed in this story. The overall tale with its mix of real and magic is interesting and unique. I've never read another story quite like this, and it kept me riveted throughout. The atmosphere is pulsing with a richness that's lush and vivid, and it just sucked me right into the jungle heat of colonial Malaysia. There is so much going on in here: murders, superstition, secrets, and romance. It has a bit of everything, and there's never a dull moment.
And yet, I often found myself feeling frustrated when reading it. Pretty much every character and their actions relied on superstition and feelings rather than logic and facts. Even when things are clearly put in front of people, they would deny what they see in favor of what they felt. Decisions are made based on superstitions or what others would think, rather than what is right. I also found a lot of the dialogue to be awkward throughout. Some things are left unsaid that should be said, while things that don't need to be said are stated repeatedly.
In the end, this book turned out to be so much more, but also not quite what I expected it to be. It drew me in with its promise of magical realism and the two protagonists' journey of growing up and self-discovery. I was completely pulled into the rich evocative atmosphere, and it made for a riveting tale. For that, I'm glad I picked up this book.
An intriguing book, set in 1930s Malaya, following the lives over a few weeks of dance hall girl Ji Lin and house boy Ren. An intricately woven tale, full of magical realism, Ji Lin and Ren come together over an amputated finger, of all things. It is a beautifully told story, the characters come to life on the page, through their interactions and their dreams. And in the background is always the threat of a man-eating tiger roaming the district, or is it a weretiger... 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I was totally mesmerized by this beautifully written Malaysian folklore/fantasy tale. If I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. The characters, the alluring mystery and the heart-pounding moments involving the tiger. A newspaper article warns that a tiger was on the loose. Was it a man-eater or a distraction? Did superstition play a role?
Touches of Malayan folklore/ love sickness/ tiger hunts / smoke screens/ lucky numbers and stolen body parts had me all wrapped up in the unfolding of the mystery. It is perfectly paced and I wanted to read every word without skimming anything.
Intriguing characters that really came alive and some that I was fearful for. One character seems to have "an affinity for deaths and accidents". He also thought events were like "dark fairy tales where wishes, however evil and stupid, are granted".
The dreaming aspect was fascinating as I've always been interested in the meaning of certain dreams and if they are some kind of message.
A dreamy page turner for me. Highly recommend if you enjoy stories with a folklore flavor and cultural intrigue.
"The Night Tiger" is light fiction with a YA feel that uses Malaysia in the 1930s as a backdrop - I was expecting to learn more about the country and its history, but I was mistaken: This book is obviously intended to be an entertaining mystery mixed with a love story, and it was way too cutesy for me (also, I'm a book snob :-)). The novel operates with two converging storylines, one of them focusing on 11-yea-old Ren who is on a quest to find his late master's amputated finger which has to be buried with the corpse because common lore has it that otherwise, the incomplete body has to wander the earth forever. The other narrative thread starts with Jin Lin, a dressmaker's apprentice who secretly works at a dance hall. She happens to get a hold of a preserved finger a customer was carrying - which brings us to the first problem of the book: It relies heavily on coincidence and the structuring device that 5 characters whose names represent the Confucian virtues have to meet to solve the mystery never comes to a satisfying conclusion. Oh yes, and there's a weretiger roaming through the decor.
On top of that, there's a lot of repetition, which unfortunately doesn't feel like a narrative device, but like a tool to keep the bar low for readers with short attentions spans: How often do we have to hear about the five virtues and what they signify, how often do we have to hear about Ren's age, how often do we have to hear explanations regarding the weretiger? (Yes, I can repete myself as well, but do you feel like my review is literature?)
Also, the book reminded me of the (admittedly very European) discussion re American YA literature which often perpetrates evangelical and conservative messages (see A Wrinkle in Time or the whole "Twilight" series): Choo obsesses over virginity, and while it is explained that this was a female currency in Malaysia at the time, the way Jin Lin complies and that no-sex-scene gave me the creeps: It shows a man who is promiscuous because of heartbreak (of course), and who is longing for a virgin who absolutely wants to have sex with him but is afraid because she is expected to remain chaste (of course) - and all of this is not portrayed as tragic or the result of an oppressive society, but more than anything as romantic (newsflash: It's not). I can't believe it's 2019 and we are still dealing with this kind of storytelling.
So all in all, I guess this is a decent beach read, but I felt like this could have been a lot more.
Thank you to Quercus and Netgalley for the ARC, but please, people at Quercus: If you set a deadline for reviews to be posted, don't publish the deadline the very same day the deadline ends. It's not a fair way to treat reviewers.
3.5 Malaysian folklore, history, mystery, magical realism, things I enjoy in a book, and there were many parts of this book I enjoyed immensely. I enjoyed the characters, Ren, a young boy, former assistant to a master who has died. He is missing a finger, and Ren has 49 days to find it and return it to his master's grave. Without it his master's spirit will wander for eternity. Ji Lin is a young woman who is working in a dance hall for extra money to pay off her mother's debts. Her step father an abusive tyrant who treats cruelly her step brother Shin. These three characters are wonderfully and I felt realistically portrayed.
Themes of colonialism an abuse of power are the backdrop to this novel. Details about the Malaysian culture, myths and setting are wonderful and add greatly in drawing this reader into the heart of the story. This is something a little different, Confucius practices introduced , and is a practice I knew of little. Following these three characters, one knows their stories are going to converge, but not how and when. Oh, and of course there is the tiger, said to be on a ravage, but is there really a tiger?
My only qualm in a story I mostly enjoyed, was the love story. Felt it was unnecessary, and lowered the novel a notch in my estimation. Many other readers have not found this to be the case. Guess, it all depends on how you interpret what you are reading, as well as your expectations going into a story. Still, I liked it because it was different from others I have read, and for a look at a culture of which I knew little..
My friends who said I would love this book were absolutely right! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
We first meet 11-year-old Ren, a servant to a doctor. Before the doctor dies, he charges Ren with one request: to find his severed finger, missing from years ago, and place it with his deceased body. The doctor says there are only 49 days in which to accomplish this task, or else because his body is incomplete, and his soul will roam the earth forever.
Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker in 1930s Malaysia, who wants nothing more than to be a doctor, but she is forced to work secretly in a dance hall to pay her mother’s debts from Mahjong. When a dance hall partner leaves her a severed finger, Ji Lin is convinced it will bring bad luck on her family. She asks her stepbrother to help her find the owner of the finger.
The days are flying by, and a tiger is endangering the town. Around this time, Ji Lin and Ren’s paths cross, and I can say nothing more about that.
Overall, The Night Tiger is a divinely told story that reads like a realistic fairy tale. The suspense makes it a page-turner, and the history makes it so absorbing. I knew little of Maylasia’s colonial history, and I found it all fascinating. Also consuming was the Chinese folklore included and that suspenseful mystery again. The atmosphere in this book is most impactful, and I was completely lost in this story and its characters. I’ll definitely be reading The Ghost Bride by this author soon!
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
"The stripes on its brilliant coat ripple; the yellow eyes glare like lanterns. Ren can only drop his gaze. The tiger makes a deep hrff sound. Then it turns and walks away, with deliberate tread that's heavy and delicate at the same time. Where is it going?"
Yangsze Choo presents a story with remarkable scope like the outspreading of a dancer's fan. She fashions the edges around colonial Malaysia in the 1930's. Malaysia is filled with folklore, superstitions, masters and servants, rivalries, and disjointed roles of males and females. Choo sharpens our vision and refines our hearing with touches of unexplainable things that go bump in the night. We feel the night stirring when there is nothing but perfect stillness.
The Night Tiger begins with a rare character by the name of Ren. He will leave smudges of his solid presence throughout the book. Ren seems to be in a constantly moving transition of a young ten year old servant boy whose master has just died. He has promised the old man that he will find his missing finger and return it to his grave. "You must get it back before the forty-nine days of my soul are over." A huge task for one so young.
As Ren begins his journey to his newly arranged place of employment, Choo introduces us to Ji Lin who finds herself weighed down by the task of paying down her mother's mahjong debts while working as a dressmaker and secretly moonlighting as a dancehall girl. Both women fear Ji Lin's cruel step-father who makes life miserable for the family. Her older step-brother, Shin, works as a medical student at a local hospital. Shin has had many an altercation with his father and stays away as much as possible. Their relationship will be an oddly carved one with unexpected sharp edges.
But it is Ji Lin, along with Ren, who will carry this storyline. Both characters have been short-changed by life suppressed by colonial times. The two possess analytical skills and intelligence beyond their stations. Yangsze Choo will position these characters to cross paths again and again. She imparts prolific dreams that will visit them in the night with profound meaning. Yet neither will feel the slamming impact until the very end.
The Night Tiger becomes a darkening surface as several murders occur without explanation. Can it all be traced back to a two-legged human or is it the eerie realization that perhaps the spirit world seeps into this world more than one could ever know?
I enjoyed the folklore and those strange superstitions that were weaved throughout this one. It set off quite the spark and heightened the interest element. I'll definitely be looking forward to the next offering by the talented Yangsze Choo.
Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger started out so well. The mysteries were well played, and I found myself in eager suspense to find the characters come together, for the tangles to finally unravel. It was a world of true dreams and tigers that are men: a dancehall girl and an orphan boy's fates intertwine, bound by a severed finger that must be buried to put a soul at rest. The combo of Ren's gentle soul and Ji Lin's desire for independence and education; the way the book explores colonialism; and the interweaving of Chinese folklore all make this a great page-turner.
Unfortunately, it was all ruined by the 'it's always been you' romance set up between Jin Lin and her step-brother. She grew up with her step-brother, and they are constantly framed as twins, twin souls. It was already an uncomfortable concept (if you have to say "it's not technically incest," it's pretty dubious) and then you add in Shin's jealousy, his possessiveness, his emotional manipulation, and his approach to seducing her, which involves kissing her even as she tries to say it's inappropriate, aka the classic persistence-until-she-stops-saying-no approach. It didn’t even develop naturally: while I saw the early signs of Shin’s interest, Ji Lin is mostly uncomfortable with his proximity and possessiveness until suddenly she’s in love with him. Although perhaps that was my fervent hope that step-sibling love would not actually be a sincere part of the narrative. I kept waiting, hoping, for a twist.
The romance ruined this novel for me: as hard as I tried to see past it and enjoy the rest, which truly was very good, I couldn’t get over how uncomfortable and gross Shin and Ji Lin were together, and it got even worse when her medical ambitions seemed to take a backseat to her love for her step-brother in the end. It’s a disappointing read for me.
April 1, 2019 I am editing this review to one-star because I've looked back at the step-sibling romance and am so appalled that people are continuing to promote this book to this extent. Shin at one point attempts assault as he pushes himself on her and she continues to insist no; at another point he says he was pressuring her to have sex because then she wouldn't be a virgin and no one else will want her. It's a manipulative and even abusive relationship that comes out of nowhere, is useless to the main interests of the plot, and that only holds Ji Lin down.
THE NIGHT TIGER was an OK read. There were some things about this book that I really enjoyed, and other things I didn't. The book is set in 1930s Malaya (Malaysia), when it was still under British rule. There are two main characters: Ren, an 11-year-old houseboy to British doctor William Acton, and Ji Lin, a dressmaker moonlighting as a dance hall girl. Their stories end up interconnecting due to a severed finger in a vial that Ji Lin obtains from one of her clients. The finger belongs to Ren's old master, and he has only 49 days to get the finger back to his master's grave before his soul is lost forever. At the same time, the women that William Acton fraternizes with keep turning up missing, dead, or both, often looking as though they were mauled by a tiger, and Ji Lin keeps having strange dreams about a river and a train, with a boy who tells her about five people whose names resemble the five Confucian values, and a terrible curse...
So what did I like about this book? It has the creepy, murder plot of a BBC murder mystery. I like how the murders were steeped in Chinese mythology and magic realism, and the looming specters of the weretiger, as well as the finger in the vial, were both suitably creepy. I didn't guess who (or what) was responsible until the very end, so there was a very nice series of reveals to make me feel as if the journey had been worth it. That's important in a murder mystery novel, I think you'll agree. Ji Lin was a great character and I liked that she had a job that was looked down on as being morally loose, and that she didn't tolerate any shit-talking from people about her career. Ren took longer for me to like, and I'm not sure I bought his "cat whiskers" premonitions. That was really strange.
So what didn't I like about this book? Good Lord, it was long, and took forever to get to the damn point. The first 100 pages or so were a breeze, and I thought I wouldn't be able to put the book down. Then the book started to drag a lot without revealing a whole lot of new information. While I did like Ji Lin's eventual love interest, that whole subplot was also dragged out for what seemed like emotional tension, and kind of felt like another excuse to pad the already bloated plot. I also felt like the ending was simultaneously too neat while failing to wrap up a few loose ends. I know on the surface that sounds like it doesn't make sense, but THE NIGHT TIGER focuses more on the kismet between the main characters, and yet ignores the rather glaring problem of the other severed fingers in the hospital, as Chelsea pointed out in her review. Do those souls just never get saved? Lame.
THE NIGHT TIGER is an interesting book, and I like the author's style of writing. I bought her other book, THE GHOST BRIDE, relatively recently and I'm hoping it'll be better than this one. I didn't hate THE NIGHT TIGER, but it has all the good ideas/less than optimal execution dichotomies and pacing issues of a debut novel, and since this isn't a debut novel, that isn't good. Still, it's great to see #OwnVoices historical fiction that explores time periods and situations that aren't getting as much representation as, say, Tudor England or British/American-fought WWII, so kudos for that.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
The Night Tiger offers a stunning look at culture, history, and Chinese superstition. Told in two alternating perspectives, and set in 1931 Malaya (Malaysia), this is a story of loyalty and loneliness, death and distressed souls, and man-eating weretigers.
Spoiler contains my spin on the book synopsis:
I absolutely loved the superstition element of this story where simple numbers can hold enough power to decide one's fate in both life and death. Also the idea of haunted beasts and guided dreams added unique magical realism to an already engaging tale rich in cultural belief. Overall, an enjoyable, one-of-a-kind reading experience that is sure to keep the interest of a variety of readers. Check it out!
Thank you to Flatiron Books for generously mailing me an advance readers' edition of Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger. In exchange, I agreed to share my thoughts on goodreads and my other favorite social media sites.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
I was a huge fan of Choo’s 2013 novel The Ghost Bride, so I was eagerly looking forward to her latest novel, The Night Tiger. This book has much in common with Ghost Bride - a lush Malaysian setting and a plot with an intriguing mix of Asian fantasy and historical fiction.
There are two main storylines here, which take place in Malaysia in 1931. The first belongs to Ji Lin and is told in the first person. Ji Lin is a young woman working as an apprentice in a dressmaker’s shop. She is also secretly working part-time at the May Flower Dance hall as a dance girl, which is not considered an appropriate job for respectable young women. Ji Lin needs the extra income to help pay off her mother’s mahjong gambling debts before her stern stepfather finds out. The second storyline is told in the third person and belongs to Ren, an eleven year servant assigned a task by his dying master. Ren must find and recover his master’s severed finger in the 49 days it will take his master’s consciousness to travel from one life to the next and bury it with his body so he can be whole in the afterlife.
Ji Lin and Ren’s journies unfold and eventually come together, but it’s very complicated. Lots and lots of extraneous characters, story threads, mysterious events and dreams to keep track of. There is also a very “young adult” feeling romance at the heart of this novel that was distracting. For some reason, I kept harking back to “Sailor Moon” or “Howl’s Moving Castle” – the romance felt very anime-ish, with the intrepid and innocent young woman swooning over the shaggy, dark-haired doomed but valiant hero.
I also thought there were too many moving parts, and the threads of all the backstories and characters didn’t get wrapped up as neatly as I would have liked. In short, just too much of everything. A little story-pruning by an editor would have gone a long way here.
A 3.5 for me, but rounding down for a missed opportunity. There is much to like here – very atmospheric with some memorable characters and moments, but a less than cohesive whole.
Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for an ARC of this novel. My review, however, is based on the hardcover version.
Mesmerizing, mythical, and mysterious, The Night Tiger is a beautifully written novel set in Malay in 1931. It tells the story of Ren, an 11 year old orphan who was a houseboy to a doctor. As he is dying, the doctor pleads with Ren to find the finger he'd had amputated many years ago, and bury it with him. According to Chinese tradition, if Ren is unable to fulfill his master's last wish within 49 days of his death, the doctor will be doomed to wander the earth, his spirit unable to move on to the next realm.
Then we have Ji Lin, a young woman apprenticed to a dressmaker, supplementing her meager income by working at a dance hall. After stealing a vial containing a finger from a lecherous salesman, she embarks on a journey to discover the story behind the finger.
Ji Lin and Ren's lives intertwine in mysterious and magical ways. I really enjoyed this novel, steeped as it is in Chinese superstition, mythology, and tradition. It is spell-binding, urging the reader on with the mystery of the finger and the many murders that are occurring. My only complaint is that it includes a love story as well and I think that served merely to distract from the main story. Overall though, it is a beautifully told story and has such a lovely cover that I had to take little breaks just to gaze at. Kudos to both the author and to the person who designed the book's jacket.
Malaya, 1931: Ji Lin moonlights as a dance-hall girl to help pay her mother’s debt. As she dances with one of the customers, she pickpockets a small glass cylinder. When she opens it, she discovers “the top two joints of a dried, severed finger.”
Eleven-year old Chinese houseboy Ren made a promise to his dead master to find his master’s severed finger and burry it with his body. And he has 49 days to do so in order for his master’s soul to rest in peace.
Ji Lin spends most of her time as an apprentice at the dressmaker���s shop where she also boards. The owner snoops around Lin’s private possessions. So she can’t leave a mummified finger in that room. Therefore, she leaves it in the dressing room and now lives in constant fear that one of the cleaners would find it. Then it occurs to her that it might be an animal’s finger. But she doesn’t know anyone who studies anatomy. Suddenly the man she pocketed the finger from is dead.
A story spinning around a severed finger is certainly not for me. I was looking forward to the folklore part of this story, but the beginning of the plot is already such a turn-off. There is no doubt that the author is a very talented writer, but the story doesn’t appeal to me.
I’ve heard of werewolves, but never weretigers. This intriguing tale set in Malaya, present day Malaysia, in 1931 involves werecats, specifically weretigers, which, though I hadn’t heard of them, are common to the folklore of this region. The tiger as sacred, as shape shifter, and as violence unleashed by a hungry ghost treads throughout this story. A young houseboy, Ren, is with his master, Dr. MacFarlane in his dying days. As a last request, Dr. MacFarlane asks Ren to find his amputated finger and bury it with his body. “You must get it back before the forty-nine days of my soul are over,” he tells Ren, giving the task a peculiar urgency. After MacFarlane’s death, Ren, already under a cloud of sorrow because of his twin brother, Yi’s death, when they were eight years old, relocates to Batu Gajah. A letter from Dr. MacFarlane, asks William Acton, a surgeon at the local hospital to take him on as houseboy.
The second main character in Choo’s novel is Ji Lin. A dressmaker’s apprentice, she also works a second job at the May Flower Dance Hall in Ipoh to help pay off her mother’s mahjong debt. It’s a debt they dare not tell her stepfather about as he can be abusive. No-one in her family, including her stepbrother Shin knows about her second job. Shin and Ji Lin were born on the same day, which to Ji Lin’s thinking makes them twins. The five confucian virtues will play heavily into this story and Ji Lin, a product of her culture, thinks about them a lot. Ji Lin is wisdom; Shin is faithfulness. Ji Lin, who looks remarkably like Louise Brooks, the silent film starlet, due to her cropped hair, is called by ‘Louise’ at the May Flower. The name gives her true identity a little protection from men who would form an unhealthy interest in her at the dance hall. When she is dancing with a salesman, who dances badly, groping her, and stumbling around the dancefloor, she accidentally grabs something out of his pocket. It’s an amputated finger in a glass specimen bottle.
This is the barebones of a plot that sizzles. There will be deaths, whether by man-eating tigers, or poisons; there will be mystery, one that kept me turning the pages. Choo’s narrative is straightforward, with simple sentences, but she sets up her scenes elegantly and with precision. There is much more to learn about the five Confucian virtues. There’s a romance that sizzles as much as the plot. If you don’t like the supernatural, skip this one. Messages from the dead appear in dreams. Ji Lin exudes a youthful exuberance, which I very much enjoyed, right down to the descriptions of her dresses. Ren is a lost boy trying to find his home in the world, and do right by old ghosts and new. Foreigners are white, British mostly, living in nice homes with servants, while their families stay home in England. William Acton, the local surgeon, is a womanizer, who has a curious way of influencing fate. Or does he? The most complex characters are Ji Lin and Ren. Most of the secondary characters’ traits suit the purpose and plot of the story; I found them no less intriguing, but lacking in complexity. I enjoyed this story very much.
If someone told me there’s a book out there that’s part history, part love story, part coming-of-age, part magical tale that is also a well-paced book that clocks in at under 400 pages, I’d be instantly suspicious. It sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: This book exists. It’s called The Night Tiger, and it’s epic and pleasing in every possible way.
The book follows two main characters: Ji Lin, a dressmaker by day and dancehall girl by night who dreams of becoming a doctor (if only her stepfather would let her); and Ren, a kindhearted houseboy so loyal to his late master that he’ll stop at nothing to reunite the man’s missing finger with his body. They also happen to be complete strangers who are somehow linked by a mysterious force—one that connects them with others (both dead and alive) who might just cause them harm.
This is a book that has something for everyone. There’s a central mystery—will Ren find that missing finger?—to satisfy puzzle-solving readers. There’s a will-they-won’t-they love story to tug at the heartstrings of every romantic. There’s a touch of magic for fantasy fans; a portrait of colonial Malaysia for history buffs; and enough family drama to please those looking for a moving saga. Equal parts nail-biter and heartwarmer, this book transported me into a world entirely unlike my own—one I’m eager to revisit.
When culture meets history and Chinese illusions, it shapes a perfect story which we rate it 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟, The Night Tiger is our Book Of The January and we're loving the fabulous writings from Yangsze! The imagination within the book goes beyond creativity, . It really has such an interesting and intriguing plot, the structure of the book is very fascinating and unique and I can see this book in a very Big Major Picture, the characters are very well connected and I really loved their strength and faith with each other, reading this you'll have a lot of mysteries in your mind, but and the twists are very breath-taking! . The book is set in 1931 in Malaysia, the main characters are Jin Li also knoen as Louise, a young woman, who has a busy life working in part-time jobs and she still doesn't know what to do with her life! Ren is a 13 year old, he is an orphan and has suffered with the loss of his twin, also he worked for an English physician! . The novel is a little bit complicated because the Author is not focused only in one thing but it has various acts which are going on but they are reasonable reactions as in the end we can connect all the dots with such intrigue and unbelievable twists! I really enjoyed the Malaysian background, it has a very powerful descriptions and I love their culture, the book has explored very different topics like myth, gender inequality, culture, magic and agony! . I loved the part when Jin Li wanted to study medicine but when her parents stopped her because she's a girl I really had mixed emotions as this is an everyday problem in every society! And the parts of Jin Li working in different jobs only to cover her mother's gambling debts are so powerful and feminist, I enjoyed her as a character she is really strong and smart woman! . Choo's novel is one of our most favourite of the Year, her folklore's stories are so unique and blended in different perspectives! You can feel different emotions within the book and we highly recommend you to read it if you love Historical Fictions with a little bit of ghost parts! We're sure that you'll love the endind too because that's what we enjoyed the most, solving out all the mysteries of the novel!!
“We were a chocolate-box family, I thought. Brightly wrapped on the outside and oozing sticky darkness within.”
The Night Tiger revolves around two characters: Ren, a young boy tasked with saving his old masters soul, and Ji Lin, who finds herself in possession of an unwanted item. Taking places in 1930’s Malaysia, Ji Lin works to pay off her mother’s mahjong debts. Ren works as an assistant to doctors. Both of their lives intertwine in a mystic story.
“In Cantonese, two was a good number because it made a pair. Three was also good because it was a homophone for sang, or life. Four, of course, was bad because it sounded like death. Five was good again because it made a complete set, not just of the Confucian Virtues, but also for the elements of wood, fire, water, metal, and earth.”
There were parts of this book that I really liked, but overall I found it to be mostly okay. Honestly, I skimmed a lot of the chapters from Ren’s perspective because I just wasn’t interested in his story. When Ji Lin and Ren’s stories began to intertwine I paid more attention. I think this book has a lot of things going for it and readers will love the magic realism and historical fiction aspects. I mostly liked it, but cannot see myself owning or rereading this book.
“Most of all, though, I wanted my mother to forgive me, and bless me, and tell me everything would be all right, just as she had when I was little, and there were only the two of us in the whole wide world. But perhaps that was part of not being a child anymore.”