bright sparks

August 6, 2008

Malaysia is far from being the roaring powerhouse of new (English language) writing that India is, but there are sparks flashing in the tinderbox. This post was brought on by the news that Tan Twan Eng’s The Gift of Rain was longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. That reminded me of Tash Aw’s fantastic The Harmony Silk Factory, longlisted for the same prize in 2005 and winner of 2005 Whitbread Book Awards First Novel Award.

Both books are set in and around the Second World War in Malaysia; I’ve not read the first but have the second and enjoyed it tremendously. The story has three narrators, the son, the wife and the friend of Johnny, a Chinese businessman in smalltown Malaya. Each tells Jonny’s – and their own connected – story at three different times and in very different voices. The third of the book told by Snow, his educated, sophisticated wife, was my favourite.

All this led to an old friend alerting me to another new Malaysian writer on the scene, Preeta Samarasan who has just published her first book, Evening is the Whole Day, on Indian Malaysian family life. It’s another to add to my wish list. She’s talking at the Edinburgh Book Festival this weekend, so if you’re there you could always swing by.

Now I’ve shared all my local book tips, do you have any for me?

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3 Responses to “bright sparks”

  1. Tracy Says:

    Just finished Harmony Silk Factory on your recommendation. Loved it! Great storytelling device to use three perspectives but never knowing the ‘real’ Johnny Lim. I quite liked Jasper’s perspective, his ambivalence was nicely conveyed: he seems to abhor his father, yet is propelled to seek out news items and information on him. I like that he never opens Peter’s parcel at the end. I also like the ambiguity of who his father is. Will let you know what I think of Gift of Rain.

  2. Tracy Says:

    Read ‘The Gift of Rain’ and highly recommend it! It is really fantastic, a real emotional journey!

  3. sunburn Says:

    good to hear! i just picked it up along with evening is the whole day – they were lying side by side in MPH! will post about them when i have read them both.

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