Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse

This book was amazing, and that's all you need to know. Go ahead, hop in your car and go buy the book.

Seriously, I loved this book. On Amazon the book title is listed and then it says "The Courageous True Story of three generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey From East to West". Yes, while most of the book is about her Grandmother and Mother, I feel that the author did good by giving her Great-Grandfather props for getting the ball rolling. Her ancestors are from a small farming village in China. I'm sure you can imagine the type of poverty that they endured. The author's Great-Grandfather started a soy sauce business. He hired other men in the village to make his recipe out of his house, then he moved his family to Hong Kong and started to sell it. He was able to make some money for the family. However, he was murdered and the family went back to living in poverty. But…Lily, the author's Grandmother, was a very strong and courageous women and she found a way to help her family. As soon as she was old enough, she became an Amah. She would work for wealthy families in Hong Kong, doing everything from being a Nanny to a maid. She made a good living and was able to marry and have children and support them. However, her husband ended up ruining all this for her. I'm not going to give you too many details though. Let's just say that when the opportunity of a life in England came to Lily, she took it. She had to leave her children in Hong Kong for several years, but was eventually able to bring them to England. In England she was able to start her own company, a restaurant. When her daughter married, her and her husband also started their own take-away place. Now…Helen, the third generation, also has her own restaurant.

I know, that review probably doesn't make you very interested does it? Let's put it this way, you travel with Helen back to the early 1900's while she describes how her ancestors lived and what it was like for them. Then you travel up through the years to current day learning what things were like for her family. She describes how strong Lily was to keep her family afloat and do what she knew would be best in the long run, even though it meant being separated from her family for awhile. You read about what the author's family had to endure throughout each generation. I think this book was great because you got to see what life was like in China and Hong Kong during those times. Then of course what it was like for the family in England.

I thought the writing was excellent. I felt like I was reading personal emails from a friend as they shared with me part of their family history. This book was a very fast read for me, I just didn't want to put it down. I feel like I'm having a hard time getting the point across on why I loved this book. I usually feel this way about memoirs too. I can't really say why I loved it, just that I did. This is definitely one that I recommend to others.

The author has a blog, Sweet Mandarin, go ahead and check it out.

Want to see a picture of the women this story is about? Check out this blog entry on the author's website, scroll to the bottom and you'll see the picture. I can't tell you how tempted I was to copy that picture and post it here on my blog, but I felt I would have the copyright police charging into my cube at any minute giving me my rights. So, instead, you'll have to click on the link and find it yourself.

Have you reviewed this book on your blog? If so let me know and I'll link it below

This book also reviewed by:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

(new author.non-fiction.277pg)

Happy Reading…and thanks for stopping by! Kris


Lover of Books said...

This sounds like a fantastic book! I wish I wasn't so broke.

Beth F said...

Wow! Thanks for this review. Sounds like an amazing story, and the photo of the women is fantastic.

Unknown said...

Lover of Books - sounds like it needs to go on your Christmas wish list. haha!

Beth - It was a great story and I agree..that photo was awesome.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great book. I have a soft spot for memoirs, and this one sounds very good.

Literary Feline said...

This was a good one, wasn't it? I am so glad you liked it so much! you make me want to reread it--your enthusiasm is very catching. :-) Thank you for linking my review. I've added a link of your review to my own as well.