on July 18, 2017
Series: Malayan #2
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Source: From author/publisher
Also in this series: The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds
In Japanese-occupied Malaya, lives are shattered and a woman discovers her inner strength in a world ravaged by war.
Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight.
Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she never could have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attentions of another man.
Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.
I loved the first book in this series – The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds. That was the story of a woman in Malaya who witnesses the change of her area when the British colonize. Her oldest son is educated in England and she has huge hopes for him that he fails to live up to. He marries a Chinese girl to please his mother. This book picks up immediately after the death of the protagonist of the first book. Her Chinese daughter-in-law tells the story of how they survived the Japanese occupation of World War II.
I was a bit reluctant to pick this book up because of the time period. I know that Japanese occupations in Asia were brutal. This book does talk about one massacre but overall it keeps a much narrower focus. It looks at how this one family survived the war. They know people in the resistance but that isn’t talked about much.
One of the conflicts was knowing how to react to the Japanese. They were invaders and they could be cruel but they also allowed Asian people into high ranking jobs that the British establishment would have never allowed. Our narrator Mei Foong’s husband, Weng Yu is given a job that he has always wanted by the Japanese. She has learned that her husband is a coward. He would head to bomb shelters first before helping her or their children. She has lost a lot of respect for him. He is in turns indifferent and cruel to her. Mei Foong learns to grow her own food and sells her mother’s jewelry in order for her family to be able to eat. The family basically keeps their heads down and does what they have to do to survive unnoticed.
“If anyone had called me a collaborator to my face, I would have recoiled. As far as I was concerned, we were only giving the Japs our unwilling cooperation.”
This is a shorter book than the first one. It only covers the years of the war. It mostly the story of the disintegration of a marriage and a woman’s finding strength in herself that she didn’t know she had set against a backdrop of war instead of a novel about the war. It isn’t necessary to read the first book before picking this one up but it adds to your background knowledge of the area and the characters.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction. Mei Foong is a great character. She grows from a shy, pampered, upper class bride into a woman who knows her worth and is able to take care of herself.