Review: The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds
by

Edition: 2017
Pages: 474
Publisher: AmazonCrossing




Summary: Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.

Amidst the smells of chillies and garlic frying, Chye Hoon begins to appreciate the richness of her traditions, eventually marrying Wong Peng Choon, a Chinese man. Together, they have ten children. At last, she can pass on the stories she has heard—magical tales of men from the sea—and her warrior’s courage, along with her wonderful kueh (cakes).

But the cultural shift towards the West has begun. Chye Hoon finds herself afraid of losing the heritage she so prizes as her children move more and more into the modernising Western world.

Rating: 4/5

Review: I will start by saying that I received an online copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange of a honest review.
I've started a new project which will continue during the following years, involving reading one book from each country of the world. Because of the "World Book Tour", I've started looking for more diverse books and different authors. Since then, I noticed a growing interest on books about Asia or with Asian characters. Therefore, and since I love historic books, it isn't surprising that Selina's book got my attention when I saw it on NetGalley. The idea of confrontation between the past and the future, the traditions and the new, especially on a colonised world in the middle on a change making process completely grabbed my attention. Besides, knowing it was narrated by a woman from a traditional Malayan family, where the feminine was seen as the pillar of the home-hold, made me even more curious.
This isn't a fast paced book. I admit I had to read it only during the day and specially on my daily commutes because I needed some attention to keep up with the story. But it's beautifully written and if you love History and family sagas please don't give up in the beginning.
Chye Hoon is our narrator and heroin and this story just exists because she made it happen through her thoughts about the world and what it brought to her and her family. It's a story about the daily life on XX Century Malaya so you can expect many details about common actions and need and how they influenced the life of this little woman.You will also be able to follow her during all her life, so it's was almost like reading a biography instead of a fiction work. To that I will credit the inspiration the author got from her grandmother's life, who was the great inspiration to this book's creation. With that said, sometimes I could see that the author really took real facts from her family to make the story go forward. But because of that, since some were casualties of a regular life, they didn't cause much impact as she wanted.
What I enjoyed the most here was the perception of the same time period in the other part of the world. Like World War I for example, and how the Malayans felt and saw this warlike conflict from the distance. It was also interesting to scrutinise the other aspects of life and social manners through the thoughts of Chye Hoon and look for other facts and references to help interpreting the various situations that happened to her family and friends.
Like all family sagas, it had sweet and sour moments and was quite interesting for me to see who a rebellious girl turned out so conservation and connected to her roots and origins. I'm not sure if I will continue with the story - if the next book happens to get launched - but I can assure you I enjoyed to discovered this family and all their connections.


Cláudia
About the author:
 
Addicted to the library Claudia loves to read on the move and we can usually find her sitting in a train or bus reading while commuting to and from work. But don't be fooled she is also keeping an eye on the landscape and all around her. She is an avid defender of sustainability and volunteering and it's as easy to find her starting a new project as it is to find her chatting with her friends. She is a dreamer and loves good stories so she keeps looking for them in her personal life.

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