Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS

“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 proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. 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.

REVIEW

“It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts.”

Picked up The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo as Netflix is adapting this story.

The story takes place in 1893, Malacca (Malaya). Once again, I am impressed with Yangsze Choo’s skills in weaving the culture, background, history and societal beliefs into the story in a very subtle way. I felt connected with the setting and background of the story as I can relate with some of the Chinese traditions and beliefs. Yangsze Choo’s description of Malacca in the 1890s is so beautiful.

“It was strange to think that power in this world belonged to old men and young women.”

The story further depicts the low social status of women in Malaya and they were often subject to arranged marriage. This renders Li Lan’s (the protagonist of the story) characterization to be rather submissive at the beginning of the story in that she is constantly thinking about marriage and a guy (Tian Bai) whom she fell in love with him at first sight. Such characterization may not gel well with women in the 20th century whereby they are strong and independent. However, Li Lan’s characterization works for me due to the setting, culture and historical background of the story.

The one thing that bothers me is the love element in this story. In short, I would say that this is a love story. And I am generally not a fan of love stories. But still, I think this debut by Yangsze Choo deserves a 4/5 star rating as I am a huge fan of authors incorporating culture, tradition and history into their work. Now I cant wait for the series to be out in Netflix! 

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