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The Ghost Bride: A Novel

by Yangsze Choo

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1,2258311,588 (3.74)80
"One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..." Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound. Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price. After an ominous 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--including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets--and the truth about her own family--before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Li Lan is seventeen. Her mother died of smallpox when she was very young, her father was so scarred by the disease at the same time that he withdrew from society. Once he had a successful business, but the marks of the pox, and grief at the loss of his wife drove him into seclusion and opium. Li Lan knows her family is slipping further and further into poverty, but she is not too happy at the thought of becoming a ghost bride. Only now does she begin to realise just what her family’s isolation has cost her; she has no friends of her own age, no one to go out into the world on her behalf. Her future is looking very uncertain.

I enjoyed the start of this book, and found Li Lan an entertaining character. She is isolated from society because of her father’s actions and so is able to ask other characters what exactly is going on, helping to explain Malaya to the reader. But her naivety didn’t remain entertaining for me. Instead her constant misjudging people began to grate.

(read more : http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2013/11/the-ghost-bride/ ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
There's a wonderful concept here. The story itself has potential. The problem for me all comes down to orchestration.

First, the author explains far too much. Authors need to trust the reader to figure some things out.

The bigger issue is that most of the story is replayed through conversation. There's not much actual story here. Li Lan talks to another character, then another, then eavesdrops on two characters, etc. This novel is almost entirely made up of two characters talking, sharing much more than they ever would in reality. Personally, I think that's poor storytelling, and also rather boring. ( )
  chrisblocker | Nov 29, 2020 |
The Ghost Bride is a paranormal romance novel set in late 19th century Malaysia. It’s a rather hauntingly beautiful book that winds it’s way through Chinese mythology and afterlife lore, as a young girl is haunted by a demanding ghost suitor and hell-bent on solving the mysteries that keep their families intertwined. Recently adapted into a Netflix original series, this is a story that combines romance, political intrigue, family drama, murder mystery all set on the backdrop of a journey through the chilling realm of the undead.

Read the full review on my blog: https://rosesbooks.home.blog/2020/10/09/review-the-ghost-bride-by-yangsze-choo/ ( )
  pixxiee | Oct 9, 2020 |
Slow starting, this adventure which spends time in a Chinese afterlife, both is and is not strange and new. Li Lan is sought as a ghost bride of a recently deceased son of the wealthy Lim family and because her father has lost the family fortune and taken to opium she has few choices. The pacing could be better and the plot is tracing paper close to YA girl with something special, though, Li Lan is in the story because she was chosen to be the ghost bride, though her inquiring attitude, scholarship and stubbornness make her a participant and not just a pretty prize. ( )
  quondame | Jul 24, 2020 |
The Ghost Bride was pretty different from anything I’ve read lately. I can’t remember the last time I read any sort of ghost story. There were things I both liked and disliked about it, but the fun of reading a ghost story pushed it more to the “like” side.

The main character is a seventeen-year-old girl named Li Lan, and the book starts off with her father asking her half-jokingly if she wants to be a ghost bride – to marry a boy who recently died. A ghost marriage is a real Chinese tradition, and this is sort of based on that. Li Lan of course has dreams of falling in love and having a real marriage and has no interest in this proposal. However, the “ghost” aspect of the proposed ghost marriage is a bit more literal than anybody realizes at first and the dead boy in question is more willful than the average dead person. It may not be as simple as saying no.

One aspect of this story that I really liked was the Chinese mythology, particularly surrounding the afterlife. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know, such as the idea of burning things for the dead so they could have those things in the afterlife. There’s a brief but somewhat interesting section at the end of the book, at least in my edition, where the author talks a little bit more about what parts of the story were based on real mythology and what parts were artistic license.

I wasn’t crazy for the main character, though. She was too wimpy and weepy for me. She often neglected to take or delayed taking what seemed like obvious steps and her successes seemed to rely over-much on luck and on ending up in the right place at the right time. I know much of her behavior was probably realistic based on the sheltered life she had led, and I think the author tries to give us the sense that Li Lan is stepping out of her comfort zone and being more assertive because she knows she has to, but her character type is one that I typically find frustrating and there was nothing that really made her rise above that for me. There was also an annoying fairy-tale-like trend that beautiful/handsome characters were usually good while ugly characters were usually bad. Romance is also pretty much a constant thread running through the story in various forms, although I expected that would probably be the case based on the title. That was a little tiresome at times, but I’ve definitely read worse.

In general, I did enjoy the story quite a bit. I think I probably enjoyed it more than I might have if I read ghost stories more often and/or if I was more familiar with Chinese mythology. The story was a bit predictable because things were telegraphed far enough ahead to prevent much surprise as the story took various turns. However, the story didn’t go where I had expected it to go when I first started reading it and I probably would have been more surprised by some aspects of it if not for the foreshadowing.

I feel comfortable giving this a 3.5 star rating, but it was really difficult to decide which way to round for Goodreads. I enjoyed this quite a bit more than a 3-star read, but 4 stars also seems too high. In the end, I decided to be generous and round up to 4 because I did mostly enjoy reading it, I learned some new things, and it reminded me that ghost stories can be fun reads. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Jun 4, 2020 |
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This book is for James
First words
One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride.
Quotations
"Do you know I'm supposed to be interrogated by demons?"

""Yes, well, it's not my fault that you proved to be such an inept spy." "Inept!" I inadvertently raised my voice and the puppet servant outside my door stirred suddenly.
Though I couldn't see his face, Er Lang seemed extremely pleased."Very good," he said at length. "I must congratulate myself." "Yourself?" I spluttered. "Why, yes. For recruiting you as a spy. From the moment I saw you, tracking me so diligently through a mangrove swamp, I thought that this was a girl who could be counted on to dig around the underworld."
Amah always said too much thinking made me pale and peaky. Of course, she was perfectly capable in the next breath of scolding me for going into the sun and ruining my complexion. She never seemed bothered by her ability to embrace two opposing things at once.
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"One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..." Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound. Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price. After an ominous 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--including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets--and the truth about her own family--before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

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