Review published on August 12, 2017.
Set during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during the Second World War, this novel relates events from the point of view of a young married Malaysian-Chinese woman called Mei Foong. She is a well educated, cultured woman from a traditional, moderately wealthy family. Suddenly, she is faced with having to struggle to feed and clothe her family and to deal with all the restrictions and dangers of living under Japanese control. She has little support from her husband who is weak and self absorbed.
The author herself is from a Malaysian-Chinese background and grew up listening to the stories and legends of her family. She had always wanted to write but instead spent years as a physicist, investment banker and trader. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with cancer that she decided to follow her dream. This book is the second in her Malayan Series. The first novel, The Woman Who Breathed Too Soon, is about Mei Foong’s mother-in-law. I haven’t read it, but I enjoyed this one a lot, so I’m going to look out for it.
The novel shows Mei Foong’s transformation from a quiet, traditional wife into a strong independent woman, but it comes at a cost. As the situation worsens, she finds inner strength and resilience but still feels she was too subservient to the Japanese.
“I was ashamed I had not resisted more.”
The relationship between Mei Foong and her husband is really well shown; the ups and downs of the marriage are made worse by the strain of living under occupation. Mei Foong becomes increasingly disillusioned by her husband’s weaknesses. I was impressed with the description of life under occupation. It wasn’t sensationalised or over dramatized, just the day by day harassments and restrictions. The shock of the sudden British withdrawal was also well described.
I was mostly very impressed with this novel. The historical background was really interesting and so were the family relationships. My only criticism was the tendency to overuse adjectives. There is certainly plenty here for discussion.
Maddy Broome 4/4
When the Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
AmazonCrossing 9781542045759 pbk Jul 2017