The Ghost Bride
by Yangsze Choo
What is it about:
"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.
What did I think of it:
This is a very beautiful read.
I loved the atmosphere in this story. It's a haunting and suspenseful in a dark way. You can't help but worry for Li Lan, and I had trouble putting the book down.
The Chinese-Indonesian mythology used in this story was mostly new to me and very intriguing. The depiction of the land of the dead was colorful and even though unfamiliar with the Chinese beliefs and rites I could easily picture it.
I will confess the story took a much different route than I had expected it to take. I was a bit thrown at first, but I must say it turned out to be a much better story than when it had followed my expectations. Not knowing where things would lead I was caught up in the mood and mystery of the story.
I finished the book much too soon in my opinion. I wouldn't have minded if it had been longer and if there had been a few more scenes along the way involving Er Lang, who was a very intriguing character. I wanted to know so much more about him. I also wouldn't have minded reading more about Tian Bai as well.
But even without those scenes I very much loved this book. It's a beautiful ghost story, with a very intriguing mythology. I will certainly be rereading this book, and I'll keep an eye out for other books by Choo.
Why should you read it:
It's a haunting and beautiful historical ghost story.