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Monthly Pick > Oct 2017: The Ghost Bride

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message 1: by Reera, Bookmaster (new)

Reera | 256 comments Mod
Hi, everyone! Our October pick is The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. It's a historical fiction novel about a young woman from a bankrupt family in 1893 colonial Malaya becoming a "ghost bride."

We'd love to hear what people's thoughts are on the book right here in the forums. Marvin and I are going to start giving people shout-outs and read excerpts from their comments on the podcast.

message 2: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Meng (resareviews) | 30 comments Yay! Shoutouts! I got "Ghost Bride" from the library two weeks ago but havent had time to read it :( going to see if I can get a loan extension

message 3: by Julie (new)

Julie (3x5books) | 29 comments I'm most of the way through it. Pleasantly surprised that it kind of reminds me of a Malayan Spirited Away.

message 4: by Julie (new)

Julie (3x5books) | 29 comments Most of the way through it. Pleasantly surprised and I'm enjoying how much it reminds me of Spirited Away.

message 5: by Lauren (new)

Lauren | 104 comments Reading this and Jamie Ford’s new novel right now, but so far, this is an intriguing read!

message 6: by Jess (last edited Oct 13, 2017 09:53AM) (new)

Jess (jbagsy) | 24 comments A half-way-through update. If you’ve read past Part 1, you’re safe to read the spoilers below.

I didn’t read the book description at all so the Part 1 cliffhanger really shocked me! It completely takes the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I think the story really benefits from the twist; it’s so much more interesting and engaging to me. (view spoiler)

message 7: by Reera, Bookmaster (new)

Reera | 256 comments Mod
I am halfway through the book right now, and wow, I was pretty shocked by the end of Part 1 as well. I'm really enjoying all the beautiful details about Malaysian Chinese ghost lore. Unsurprisingly, Choo's novel actually reminds me of Lisa See's Peony in Love.

message 8: by Reera, Bookmaster (last edited Oct 25, 2017 02:04PM) (new)

Reera | 256 comments Mod
My final thought on Choo's novel is that the setting of 1800s Malacca is the show stealer. I'm someone who is more bias toward plot-heavy books with tighter structure, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Ghost Bride. It's one of those books you read to escape reality rather than for a tightly woven plot.

As Julie said above, the book reminds me of Miyazaki's Spirited Away, mainly because so much of the story hinges on rich details about the spirit world. (view spoiler)

I have tremendous respect for Choo's dedication to portray an ethnically and socially diverse Malacca. I had a lot of fun reading about how Chinese immigrants in Malaysia adopted certain local customs like traditional clothing and food while holding onto their ancestral beliefs. It's details like these that really make #ownvoices book really stand out.

I'm sure I'll talk about the book more extensively on the podcast. We'll be reading comments from the forums on the podcast, so please share your thoughts on the book here!

message 9: by Jess (new)

Jess (jbagsy) | 24 comments Like with most B&B picks, I enjoy seeing the differences and similarities between the given Asian culture and my own. In both the book and my own Filipino culture, dreams and the idea of Limbo are important in death mythology/superstitions. In the Philippines, if you are the first person to be visited in a dream by a recently passed relative, that might mean you were their favorite. With our colonial Catholic influences, being visited in dream might also mean your relative is stuck in Limbo/Purgatory and needs your prayers to get to Heaven. Without giving away major spoilers, I can say the dream superstitions are very similar in this story, which was fascinating to read as a non-Chinese/Malaysian reader.

The B&B twitter retweeted a thread by Malindo Lo earlier, and this book really brought that point home:
"Here's something I've felt when reading Asian inspired fantasy by non-Asian authors vs. written by Asian authors: Books by non-Asian authors start with the surface stuff: Asian-sounding names, fancy silk clothes, food, imperial palaces and dragons, etc. Books by Asian authors start with family: parental expectations, especially, or loyalty and duty.
That's the culture."

Choo did an excellent job of setting the events against a layered and three-dimensional Chinese-Malaysian setting. It wasn't vaguely pan-Asian, picking and choosing random aspects of Asian culture to suit the author. It was specific to Chinese-Malaysian customs someone might* actually see in a multicultural city like Malacca. The plot truly flourished with such a well-developed backdrop. And I hesitate to call it a backdrop; as Reera said, it really is a show-stealer!

(*I admit Ive never been to Malaysia, but I found a lot of similarities to the Chinese-Filipino communities one can find in the Philippines where my family is from).

message 10: by Jess (last edited Oct 28, 2017 09:23PM) (new)

Jess (jbagsy) | 24 comments Oh, and if you haven't finished it yet, I HIGHLY recommend listening to it as an audiobook because the author narrates the book herself! She does these amazing voices and really gets into character. I haven't heard a fiction author even attempt to read their own book on audio, let alone do it so well. The only exception I can think of is Neil Gaiman (maybe it's a British accent thing LOL)

message 11: by Julie (new)

Julie (3x5books) | 29 comments I really appreciate the audiobook recommendation, Jess. I already read the book, but I just started it in this format yesterday. It's so enjoyable and I love the author's voice.

It's interesting how a few books I've read this year (this one, Sorcerer to the Crown, Rich People Problems) feature Straits/Malaysian culture and history to differing extents. The syncretism in general is fascinating and I'm going to look for other authors.

For this book specifically, it's one of the few (not written by Malinda Lo) that has a non-irritating love triangle (IMO). It's so atmospheric and the world truly is the star. Yangsze Choo wove together history, tradition, and a good story so well.

message 12: by Reera, Bookmaster (new)

Reera | 256 comments Mod
Goodreads won't let me upload a screenshot from my computer, but I will type out Yangsze Choo's FB comment to us.

Yangze Choo:

I'm so honored that you picked "The Ghost Bride" for your October read! Thanks so much, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! 😀

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