The Night Tigerby Yangsze Choo Published 12 Feb 2019
|The Night Tiger.pdf|
A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.
When 11-year-old Ren's master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master's soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.
Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother's Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin's dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.
As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren's lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.
"The Night Tiger" Reviews
“Time is running out: there are only 20 days left before Dr. Mac Farlane’s forty-nine days of the soul are over. If by then he can’t find the finger, he’ll have failed. How will his old master rest? Ren remembers Dr. MacFarlane’s last days, shivering fevers. And then the dreams, the waking nightmares in which the old man would cry for mercy, or crawl slavering on all fours. If Auntie Kwan had still been with them, she would have taken charge, but in the end there was only Ren”.
“A gust of wind shivers through the house, banging all the doors simultaneously.
To Ren, peering out the window at the top of the stairs, the trees are a waving green ocean surrounding the Bungalow. It’s a ship in a storm, and Ren is the cabin boy peeking out of a porthole. Clutching the windowsill like a life buoy, Ren wonders what secrets lurk in the jungle surrounding them, and if his old master is in fact trapped in the form of a tiger”.
Ren is only 11 years old....a Chinese houseboy is on a mission to fulfill his formers master’s dying wish. His former master, Dr. MacFarlene, lost a finger due to an accident many years ago. Ren promised to find it and bury it with his body. The old age superstition says this ‘must’ happen in 49 Days...or his old master’s soul will wander the earth forever.
“Malaya, with its mix of Malays, Chinese, and Indians, is full of spirits: a looking-glass world governed by unsettling rules. The European werewolf is a man who, when the moon is full, turns his skin inside out and become a beast. He then leaves the village and goes into the forest to kill. But for the natives here, the weretiger is not a man, but a beast who, when he chooses, put on a human skin and comes from the jungle into the village to prey on humans. It’s almost exactly the reverse situation and in some ways more disturbing”.
“There’s a rumor that when we colonials came to this part of the world, the natives, considered us beast-men as well, though nobody has said that to my face”.
William is Ren’s new master. Ren is grateful for the work. ....
Jin Lin was a rookie dressmaker....but the job as a student/apprentice wasn’t enough money to help get her mother out of a Financial jam. So on the side she secretly took a job working at the May Flower Dance Hall.
It wasn’t trained professional dancing ( which she was), that they were looking for. She had to learn the ‘Tango’ fast.
Jin Lin was bright- she wished she could have left for college - wished to study medicine and become a doctor like her stepbrother, Shin’s plans. ( they were born on the same day), and Jin Lin had higher marks in school, but the culture in the 1930’s, Malaysia for women wasn’t encouraging. So.....dressmaker/ dance hall dancer it was.....
Big MAMA at the dance hall had Jin Lin Cut her long braids off to look more like a modern -western woman. In truth if her mother or stepfather knew what her moonlighting job was - it would have bad news. It was not considered respectable in her family at all!
With the new dance name that big MAMA gave her - Louise- she got tapped by a salesman for a dance. When he asked her name, she forgot and gave her real name...and accidentally ends up with a thin walled cylinder made of glass - a specimen bottle - with a dried up finger inside.
Jin Lin’s 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 begins to get much more interesting- SHE’S BRIGHT - ZEALOUS- SHREWD - INGENIOUS.
This book is wonderful, covering a fascinating time period set in the 1930’s colonial Malaysia. ( called Malaya in the 1930’s). As you might be able to piece together - Ren and Jin Lin are going to cross paths. It’s filled with surprises- textured characters - ( engrossing sibling relationship), unexplained deaths - danger- humor - suspenseful turmoil - foods to make you hungry- ( I was so in the mood for steaming yummy noodles when I finished this novel), history - magical realism- ghosts - & tigers - forbidden love - Love -
I admit to an extra appreciation of my fingers, too.
Yangsze Choo’s writing was totally alluring giving attention to detail and descriptive prose. It also had the best ending!!!! I felt so warm and wonderful after finishing it.
Thank you Flatiron Publishing for sending me this novel. Many thanks to Yangsze Choo, too.
Quote - ( part of the full message to readers) from Yangsze:
“As a child in Malaysia, I was fascinated by the black and white colonial Bungalo’s left behind by the British, many of which lie now in ruins. With their high ceilings and gracious windows, they spoke of a life that vanished—sort of Downton Abbey of the tropics with it shadowed interplay between servants and masters”.
“The Night Tiger” came out of the secrets I imagined in those houses together with many of my favorite obsessions: Chinese dancehall girls, twins, men who turned into tigers, A train that takes you to the world of the dead. And of course a good mystery”.
Yangsze Choo writes an enthralling and exhilarating piece of well researched historical fiction set in the British colony of Malaya (Malaysia) of the 1930s. The fraught and upset British doctor is dying and worried about what will happen to his soul upon death. He had been gifted a 11 year old Chinese house boy, Ren, by a friend. Ren is a kind, loyal and compassionate boy and when his dying master on his deathbed asks that he finds his severed finger and bury it with his dead body to prevent his soul from roaming the earth forever, he complies. However, he must do this within 49 days, adding a strong sense of urgency to his time sensitive obstacle ridden quest. Ren is to find his path crosses with that of Ji-Lin, a bright and intelligent woman, whose ambitions to be a doctor have been thwarted by her step father. This is a atmospheric story of tradition, culture, masters, servants, love and the dead, incorporating the central role of Chinese mythology and folklore, colonisation, dreams and superstition.
Ji-Lin is a trainee dressmaker, who is secretly working as a dance hall girl, Louise, at the Flower Dance Hall to pay off her mother's mahjong debts. One night, she dances with Chan Yew Cheung, who leaves her with a shrivelled finger in a vial, ensuring her fate is intertwined and indelibly connected with that of young Ren. There are strange and bizarre deaths that occur amidst rampant tales of tigers that can take on human form, magical shapeshifters. Choo's writing is beautiful in this gorgeously immersive read, with rich descriptions that give us a fabulous sense of location and this historical era. There is suspense and intrigue in this multilayered and fascinating depiction of Malaya, the importance of tigers within the culture, and the role of superstition in carving out fate and destiny. I loved the well developed central characters of Ren and Ji-Lin, particularly Ji-Lin, she is a strong woman, although I am not so certain about the romance elements that involved her. This is captivating and imaginative storytelling in which Choo expertly weaves together the disparate threads within a narrative that includes secrets, family, sibling relationships and ghosts. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.
An intriguing book, set in 1930s Malaya, following the lives over a few weeks of dance hall girl Ji Lin and house boy Ren. An intricately woven tale, full of magical realism, Ji Lin and Ren come together over an amputated finger, of all things. It is a beautifully told story, the characters come to life on the page, through their interactions and their dreams. And in the background is always the threat of a man-eating tiger roaming the district, or is it a weretiger...
3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Night Tiger offers a stunning look at culture, history, and Chinese superstition. Told in two alternating perspectives, and set in 1931 Malaya (Malaysia), this is a story of loyalty and loneliness, death and distressed souls, and man-eating weretigers.
Spoiler contains my spin on the book synopsis: [spoilers removed]
I absolutely loved the superstition element of this story where simple numbers can hold enough power to decide one's fate in both life and death. Also the idea of haunted beasts and guided dreams added unique magical realism to an already engaging tale rich in cultural belief. Overall, an enjoyable, one-of-a-kind reading experience that is sure to keep the interest of a variety of readers. Check it out!
Thank you to Flatiron Books for generously mailing me an advance readers' edition of Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger. In exchange, I agreed to share my thoughts on goodreads and my other favorite social media sites.
Why I love it
by Brianna Goodman
If someone told me there’s a book out there that’s part history, part love story, part coming-of-age, part magical tale that is also a well-paced book that clocks in at under 400 pages, I’d be instantly suspicious. It sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: This book exists. It’s called The Night Tiger, and it’s epic and pleasing in every possible way.
The book follows two main characters: Ji Lin, a dressmaker by day and dancehall girl by night who dreams of becoming a doctor (if only her stepfather would let her); and Ren, a kindhearted houseboy so loyal to his late master that he’ll stop at nothing to reunite the man’s missing finger with his body. They also happen to be complete strangers who are somehow linked by a mysterious force—one that connects them with others (both dead and alive) who might just cause them harm.
This is a book that has something for everyone. There’s a central mystery—will Ren find that missing finger?—to satisfy puzzle-solving readers. There’s a will-they-won’t-they love story to tug at the heartstrings of every romantic. There’s a touch of magic for fantasy fans; a portrait of colonial Malaysia for history buffs; and enough family drama to please those looking for a moving saga. Equal parts nail-biter and heartwarmer, this book transported me into a world entirely unlike my own—one I’m eager to revisit.
Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/the-night-...