Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Yangsze Choo

Today’s post by debut novelist Yangsze Choo | @YangszeChoo

Two genres that I have a particular soft spot for are historical fiction and magical realism. And today’s guest author has managed to combine the two in a novel that has become one of this years hottest titles. So we’re thrilled to give away a copy of THE GHOST BRIDE to one lucky winner today. Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

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Yangsze Choo

Yangsze Choo

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this book is Doireann. Thanks to all who entered! And don’t forget to check back soon. We have lots of great giveaways lined up for the rest of this year.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother lived in a small town in Malaysia opposite a cinema which showed scary Chinese movies. We children were not allowed to go and watch them, although from the front window we could see people lining up to buy tickets. Instead, we could only gaze at the vivid, hand-painted cinema billboards and ask my grandmother to explain what the illustrations were about. In retrospect, her ghost stories were probably more terrifying and enigmatic than the actual Hong Kong movies that were showing! This was probably my first introduction to the peculiar Chinese practice of arranged marriages with the dead.

Years later, I was digging around in the archives of our local Malaysian newspaper to research another book that I was trying to write (a disastrous novel about an elephant detective), when I came across a sentence in an old newspaper article that offhandedly referred to the decline in Chinese spirit marriages. I was so intrigued by this that I ended up putting aside my first book to write THE GHOST BRIDE instead.

The folk superstition of marriages to ghosts, or between the dead, usually occurred in order to placate spirits or repair familial relations. Matches were sometimes made between two deceased persons, with the families on both sides recognizing it as a tie between them. In fact, it still occurs today. Sometimes two sweethearts might be married after death, or a family member might be told in a dream that a deceased relative wanted to get married. A formal marriage ceremony would then be performed, complete with food, preparations, and the burning of paper offerings such as money, houses, and servants, which were believed to become tangible assets in the afterlife. More rarely, the living were married to the dead. This is the case for Li Lan, the main character in my book.

There’s actually a long Chinese literary tradition of strange tales set in the blurred borderline between spirits and humans, where beautiful women turn out to be shape-shifting foxes, and the afterlife is run like a monstrous parody of Imperial Chinese bureaucracy. Most of the classic Chinese stories about ghosts are actually about young men, usually scholars, to whom all these strange things happen. The archetype would be “Once, there was a poor scholar, who was studying alone at night when there was a knock on the door… ” Of course, he opens it to find a beautiful girl who turns out to be either a ghost, a fox, or a flower spirit. All sorts of trials ensue, usually with the not-so-subtle warning that you shouldn’t be tempted away from your studies by licentious women!

In my case, I wanted to tell a story from the point of view of a girl, and to marry two of my favourite genres – historical fiction and magical realism. It was a fascinating topic to explore, particularly the second half of the book, which takes place in the terrifying, beautiful shadowlands of the Chinese afterlife, filled with ghosts and monsters. In some ways, I was able to put into it all the fantastic stories of my childhood that I couldn’t see in a movie theater but could only imagine through old tales and comic books. It’s a rich and curious mythology that I’d love to introduce to readers!

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The Ghost Bride “One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride… “

Li Lan, a young Chinese woman, lives in 1890s colonial Malaya with her quietly ruined father, who returns one evening with a proposition — the fabulously wealthy Lim family want Li Lan to marry their son. The only problem is, he’s dead.

After a fateful visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets, before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

An Oprah.com Book of the Week, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, and Indie Next List, THE GHOST BRIDE is Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo’s debut novel. Yangsze eats and reads too much and can often be found doing both at her blog (http://yschoo.com)

 

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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37 Responses to Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Yangsze Choo

  1. Michael September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    There doesn’t seem to be any details as to how to win that book giveaway?

  2. Davida Chazan September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    After reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, I think I’d like this book.

  3. Billie September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a nice book if you liked NIGHT CIRCUS….which I did

  4. Ann Bresnan September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds fascinating! Would love to win a copy :)

  5. Katie @ Doing Dewey September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    What an interesting premise!

  6. Sherry Buddemeyer September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Oh please let me be the one to win this time! Please !!!

  7. Cammi Hevener September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    So many great reading suggestions! I’ll never catch up! :)

  8. Becky September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a great read!

  9. Myra September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Hmmmm….Sounds very unique! Would love a chance to read it.

  10. Gwyn September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a great read!!!

  11. Katherine Jones September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Fascinating. Would love to read this one.

  12. rhonda September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a beautiful read.

  13. Autumn September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I loved this story of the grandmother because I had a grandmother who also loved to tell frightening stories (mine were about aliens and vampires). Anyway, this is a great book. I hope more people check it out.

  14. L. Scott September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Loved this book. Wraith setting done to perfection. (And hoping that the contest entry method is still “comment here”.)

  15. Kristin T. September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve been hearing great things about this book and would love to win a copy of it.

    Thanks!
    k2reader(at)gmail(dot)com

  16. Laura Kay September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    When I first read about THE GHOST BRIDE I added it to my wishlist and since it’s publication I’ve read a number of reviews about how good the book is! I am very interested in the magical realism. This just sounds like such a different read I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed to win it!

  17. GinaD September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I finished The Ghost Bride last weekend and loved it!

  18. Melissa Crytzer Fry September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This book has captivated me from the first time I saw a blurb about it. In fact, so much that it’s in the running for our next book club pick! This book sounds utterly fascinating!

    I love the way Yangsze has woven magical tales from childhood into a historical novel. Two of my favorites, too!

  19. Clarissa September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Amazing and refreshing concept for a story, filled with adventure and hope.

  20. doireann September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Highly recommended. I have the audio book. Ms. Choo is a talented writer and wonderful narrator. I I would also like to have a hard copy of her novel.

  21. Nancy Reynolds September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Your book is presently on my TBR list – so I would LOVE to be the lucky winner. However, as I don’t think that will happen, I’m going to move it up to the top of the list so that I read it in the near future. Every time I read something about it, it intrigues me anew. It sounds wonderful. Continued wonderful luck with it!

  22. Janine M September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Favorite book of 2013! You must please write a sequel! Please do not leave your fans hanging – wondering what ever happens to Li Lan! Hope that I am the one who wins a signed copy! Then I can donate my copy to the library!

  23. Nancy Pate September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I, too, eat and read a lot, but I’m always hungry for good books. This blend of historical fiction and magical realism sounds wonderful. Not only do I want to read it, but it reminds me to go back and reread Jeanne Larsen’s novels Silk Road and Bronze Mirror, which also blend Chinese history, myth and magical realism.

  24. Christi Craig September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like an excellent read!

  25. Kasey Leavitt September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This book is at the top of my TBR list. Magical realism is my absolute favorite. It is what I write and what I seek out. Historical fiction is a very close second for me. This is a must read for me.

  26. Ann Ellison September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds like a book I would like to read. Thanks again for the give-away.

  27. Kim September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Sounds wonderful! Thank you for the chance to win this book.

  28. Kathy September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    This story is based on a practice in the past in Chinese culture so there is validity to the premise of this narrative. I find is fascinating the a young woman could be trapped into marriage with a dead man to fulfill the parent’s wishes. It sounds like a great read.

  29. Ana September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Love! Love! Love! Love this book! Highly recommend! Quite a fascinating read and refreshing too. Haven’t been this hooked for a book in quite sometime.

  30. Anjuli September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I hope I get my personal copy signed by the famous author !

  31. Paula Dolin September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Would love to win!

  32. Amy September 28, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    that book sounds wonderful! i would love to have a copy!

  33. Llehn September 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I’d love to play please! Thanks.

  34. Louise Jolly September 30, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I just finished reading “The Ghost Bride” last week and it’s as every bit as good as it’s touted to be. I was literally glued from the first to the last page. If at all possible readers, DON’T miss out on this one!!

    Happy Reading!

  35. Her Grace September 30, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I love a good Chinese ghost story. Thirty years ago I fell in love with “The Bridge of Birds”. Several years ago I had the opportunity to see the Chinese Opera “The Peony Pavilion”. LOVED it.

    There’s something so delicately bittersweet about a good Chinese ghost story.

    I will get my hands on “The Ghost Bride” one way or another.

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