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The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
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The Night Tiger

by Yangsze Choo

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When you are dead, I will find your missing finger.
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Oh my lord this book is dumb.

Ren has forty-nine days to find his dead master’s long-ago amputated finger and bury it in his master’s grave, or else his master’s soul will never rest. Meanwhile, Ji Lin, a dance hall girl, is haunted by dreams of Ren’s dead twin brother.

I would not have finished The Night Tiger if my office book club wasn’t reading it. Let me put it this way: the author’s previous book made Oprah’s Book Club, which says an awful lot.

In all fairness, The Night Tiger has a lot going for it initially. Ren’s gruesome quest is a pretty interesting mission, and the time limit raises the stakes. I enjoyed the infusion of Chinese and Malay folklore and tradition, which is a nice changeup from books about white people being white.

But this book was so dumb it hurt me a little. Ren’s quest for the missing finger gets resolved fairly quickly, but then he holds onto said finger for ages and ages instead of burying the damn thing in his master’s grave like he’s supposed to. Then he passes the finger back to Ji Lin with the instructions to bury the frickin thing immediately, and she holds onto it for ages and ages too. The abrupt resolution of the missing finger quest instantly made the book quite dull, and the much lofted forty-nine day time limit only came down to the wire because this book’s characters are even dumber than the book is.

The dynamic between Ji Lin and Shin is an unlikable disaster. They constantly snipe at each other and are often quite cruel and rude to one another, and then abruptly make up with no resolution whatsoever because they dislike extended fights. Not to mention the hotel scene is incredibly awkward and disturbing to read as Shin literally begs Ji Lin to pleasepleaseprettyplease have sex with him so that she can “be mine” and no longer be an object of attraction to any other male suitors. This is not a duo I can find myself rooting for.

There’s a lot of side plots, most of which are set up to provide the main characters with obstacles to deal with (since the interesting plot is solved so quickly). I have no idea how Ji Lin can get away with missing her job and her apprenticeship so frequently, but whatever. The dream sequences also drag, which is unfortunate since there’s a lot of dream sequences. (Also, just being a butt here but train metaphors for death are so overdone and need to be retired. Why can’t bungee jumping be a metaphor for death? Or unicycles?)

The Night Tiger is at best unremarkable and at worst a true slog through literary mud. Oprah has bad taste in books. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
‘The Night Tiger’ by Yangsze Choo touches upon several genres in that it is part fantasy, part mystery, part romance, as well as even historical fiction. The setting is in Malaysia in the 1930’s when Malaysia was under British colonization. Ren, a young orphan boy, is commissioned by his dying master, Dr. MacFarlane, to locate and retrieve his severed finger and to bury it with his master’s body before the 49 day period of mourning is over. Meanwhile, a young woman, Jin Li, is denied further education by her stepfather and is sent to apprentice at a dressmaker’s shop. The missing finger seems to pass through JinLi’s hands when she secretly finds employment as a dance instructor at a local dance hall. Meanwhile, people are found murdered with allegations that a night tiger is roaming the premises. Although the story, based on some Malaysian folklore about a ghost tiger and incorporating Confucian ideologies, is a thoughtful one, and worthy of reading. However, for much of the beginning of the story, I felt slightly disengaged with the characters and plot. Only, when JinLi becomes more involved with the severed finger and her relationship with her stepbrother, does her character begin to come alive for me. Therefore, I decided to award the story 4 stars. ( )
  haymaai | May 28, 2019 |
this review is for the audiobook edition, narrated by the author, Yangsze Choo.

you guys! yangtze choo is the most wonderful narrator! her voice is fantastic, and she brilliantly brought her story to life. i found the novel quite lush and atmospheric, and my attention was grabbed from the first page. the book does dabble in the magical realism-fantasy realm a wee bit - something i can sometimes struggle with - but in this instance, it captured my curiosity. i feel because there was a cultural/folkloric anchor to that arc in the story, it was easier for me to accept, and easier to suspend my disbelief. (if that makes any sense at all?)

if you are looking for a great book to escape into, i recommend the night tiger! ( )
  Booktrovert | Apr 19, 2019 |
Probably the best fiction I've read this year. I typically tend away from the "sci-fi" genre, but this magical realism is quite wonderful. The setting is 1930 colonial Malaysia, the characters are well defined and the pace is good. Murders, motives and missing body parts give the feel of a perennial mystery story, but the surrounding folklore makes it quite unique. The romance portion is the weakest, but the author refrains from a neat and tidy ending by leaving three of the main characters on their way to Singapore. ( )
  MM_Jones | Mar 12, 2019 |
This story was a mix of mystery and Asian myth, set in 1930s Malaysia. There were things I loved about the story - Ji Lin's determination and audacity, her willingness to work in a dance hall to pay her mother's debts and her dream of being a doctor - and other things that I just struggled with in the story. Admittedly, the myths surrounding were-tigers which the book discussed were unfamiliar to me and harder to wrap my head around. The story was definitely original and I enjoyed reading a story set in a locale less explored by other historical fiction writers. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Mar 6, 2019 |
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This book is for my father and mother, who were born and grew up in the Kinta Valley.
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The old man is dying.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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