Tag Archives: Book Club

Review: The Night Tiger

The Night Tiger

The Night Tiger
By Yangsze Choo
Flatiron Books, 9781250175465, January 2020, 384pp.

The Short of It:

There is an awful lot going on in this story and honestly it was rather exhausting to read.

The Rest of It:

Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker. It’s an honest living but doesn’t pay enough to help pay her mother’s Mahjong debt so she takes a job working in a dance hall. These places have poor reputations so she spends much of her time hiding this job from her family and friends. One night, as she is dancing with a rather mysterious man, a glass vial falls out of his pocket. Thinking it might be valuable, Ji Lin quickly tucks it away, desperately hoping she isn’t accused of being a pickpocket.

Inside the vial is a shriveled up finger, preserved in salt. What does it mean? It is used for magic? Has it been cursed? Where did it come originally? This finger lures her down an adventurous path in search of its meaning.

When I said earlier that this book had a lot going on, man, I wasn’t kidding. Ji Lin has to deal with her mother’s constant inquiries about male suitors, her abusive step-father who takes his anger out on everyone,  including Ji Lin’s mother and her step-brother, Shin. Ji Lin would love to be a nurse and yet she spends her days fighting off men who want to do more than dance with her.

With all this going on, there is also a houseboy who sees death, people going missing, a rogue tiger is said to be the cause, and doctors going back and forth about missing body parts and people dropping dead from poisoning.

My main issue with this story is that it jumped all over the place. I didn’t get to spend time with any one character for long and overall the story was fantastical and not believable. The other issue I had is the one thing that WAS carried throughout the story, the attraction between Shin and Ji Lin, step-siblings. Not related by blood but still. I could not get past the cringe factor.

This is a book club pick and I know many readers who found this book quite entertaining. I, however, did not. It was just okay for me. If the story had focused on one main character and really delved into his or her story, I’d be more invested but with all the running around and fantastical elements (ghost tiger) I was over it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Memory Police

The Memory Police

The Memory Police
By Yoko Ogawa, Translated by Stephen Snyder
Vintage, 9781101911815, July 2020, 288pp.

The Short of It:

Ethereal and beautiful, tinged with sadness.

The Rest of It:

On a remote island, random objects begin to disappear. Birds, roses, ribbons, etc. The inhabitants wake to a feeling of change yet can’t put their finger on what has changed until they interact with others on the island. The strange thing is that the feeling that the disappearance causes precedes the actual disappearance which is followed through to completion by the inhabitants themselves. So when roses disappear, the inhabitants gather up all the roses to destroy them and send them down a river.

The disappearances are enforced by the Memory Police. How they know when someone is holding out is not explained but if someone tries to preserve something that has disappeared, they are taken away. Eventually, when all traces are removed, most of the inhabitants can no longer recall the item at all. All memory of the item has disappeared as well. But there are some who never forget. The memories of these items remain in them, and for some, they’ve even been able to preserve the actual item, such as a piece of candy. As living becomes more difficult and the situation more dire, you can’t help but compare what is going on with Orwell’s 1984.

The three main characters are for the most part, unnamed. Our protagonist, a young woman, lost both her parents and lives a solitary life. She is a writer and befriended by her editor, only known as “R” and a kind old man who knew her mother. The three navigate these disappearances as best they can but “R” happens to be one of the people who can remember and so he must go into hiding with their help. What will disappear next?

This story is beautifully written. I found myself rereading many passages as I went along. The author’s skill at evoking a particular memory is especially wonderful. I found myself mourning all the things we have lost during this pandemic. The smell of a wonderful meal, served to me in a bustling restaurant filled with laughter and happy people. Or I found myself missing movie theatres and that anticipation you feel when the previews roll or the smell of hot buttered popcorn while sitting back to enjoy a really good film. The story made me feel all kinds of things. Yes, it made me a little sad but also hopeful because I am fairly certain that the tangible things we’ve lost during this pandemic are only temporary losses, not like the ones in the story.

The author’s inspiration was Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. This makes sense when you consider the hiding that must take place to keep these people safe. The Memory Police is a wonderful read. I have found a new favorite author in Ogawa and can’t wait to read another book by her.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.