It’s that time of the year when we are seeing a lot of ‘best books’ list, but in this new series I’m starting today, I’m doing something a little different: asking fellow writers and illustrators to write about a book they loved reading this year. It doesn’t have to be a new book: it can have been published this year, last year, last century, or any century, but old or new, it’s should have been special for that reader in some way.
And I’m starting with my own pick: The Ghost Bride, the wonderful first novel by Yangsze Choo, first published in 2013, which I missed when it first came out, but which I read this year. I first came across it as I was compiling a reading list for the PHD in creative writing I am currently undertaking, and was immediately intrigued by the concept. But that was nothing compared to the sheer pleasure and immersive excitement of reading this beautiful book, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone ever since!
Readers of this blog will know I interviewed Yangsze a few weeks ago, but here’s my mini-review of the book, taken from the introduction of the same interview:
Set in 1890’s Malacca, in old Malaya, The Ghost Bride is the story of Li Lan, a young Chinese girl whose once-prosperous family has fallen on hard times: her mother is dead, her father has become an opium addict, and the little money there is in the family is dwindling fast, and will soon not be enough to support the household, including the few servants who are left. As a result of this, Li Lan’s father makes her agree to a terrible bargain: his only daughter will be betrothed to a dead man, the only son of the rich Lim family, who died some time before. Li Lan is desperate to escape this fate, and she tries every means to stop it from happening, especially as she has fallen in love with the new heir of the Lim family, their handsome nephew, Tian Bai. But in so doing, she must venture into the shadowy reaches of the afterlife–and soon places herself in terrible danger, as she plunges into an adventure like no other, from which there might be no return..
It’s one of the most beautiful and magical books I’ve read in a long time. In character, setting and story, it is rich, vivid and totally absorbing, and it ends very satisfyingly, as well. I’m not the only one who thinks so–first published in 2013, the book was a Carnegie Medal nominee, a New York Times bestseller, a favourite of Oprah Winfrey, and garnered all kinds of other acclaim and honours.