My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. This paperback comprises 464 pages including several informational sections like a glossary and a word about the language used in the story. Not foul language as you might anticipate! Nope, it’s more how “the main characters speak a mix of the most common Chinese dialects in Malaysia (Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese), which they intersperse with English or Malay.” I know some German, Spanish, and French words but that’s about it. So, having this insight into this new-to-me language is fascinating. Isn’t that the reason we read historical fiction—to learn about other cultures and traditions in an entertaining setting?
This story certainly delivers on immersing me into this culture. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it, so I was, well, an open book when it came to absorbing what the author had to share about Malaysia. I’m delighted with the details included, especially about the unique foods and beverages they enjoy. I wish I could go sample some of them! I enjoy reading about cooking and baking and food preparation in general, looking for hints and tips and ideas I might use myself.
I’m only on page 165 so not even halfway through the story. This is a work of fiction but it reads like an autobiography or memoir. Written in the first person past tense, the immediacy and lone point of view tends to emphasize that feeling of reading someone’s telling of their life and the people in it. I feel like I really am peeking into someone else’s memories and experiences.
I’m not sure where the story is heading, but I’ll let you know next time.
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