November 24th, 2013

hasui winter river

The Ghost Bride

Excellent excellent book. The Chinese authors I can find easily are either mainland or North American, which is fine as far as it goes; but the diaspora went to many other places and one hears very little from Chinese in the Straits or the West Indies or Africa. The Ghost Bride is set in the Chinese community in Malacca at the end of the 19th century: hot and steamy and, one character implies, preferable to Hong Kong, where Chinese are definitely second-class citizens compared to the British. (The author is not oblivious to the position of the Malays vis-a-vis the Chinese either, just to say.)

The book has many joys, sense of place being one of the first. All those Malaysians and Singaporeans over at goodreads saying, in essence, THIS. I only know the place from chance remarks in other people's blogs, and tGB fills in the details: heat, humidity, green, dust, rain. Oh, and the social workings, the domestic life. I've read just enough Chinese novels to realize how the protagonists' lifestyle is both the same and different from the way things worked on the mainland-- looser, less Confucian, more cosmopolitan.

All this is good. But the icing on the cake is the genre. It's historical fiction with a mystery or two on the side and a romance or two as well, and mh well what to call it? Fantasy sounds wrong: supernatural sounds wrong. It's the belief system of the society presented as working the way it was thought to work. No really, there is a Hell, there are Judges there, and they're just as corrupt as the ones here. (Minor plot thread, btw.) So, an historical mystery novel with fantasy elements, then? Basically, Liz Williams done organically, not borrowed from someone else. Excellent.

And I totally misplaced the one name I thought I knew. Comes from Houshin Engi *and* Journey to the West: and isn't him.