Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Published by Quercus on the 12th February 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads, a Book With A Vegetarian Character, one of my WorldReads from Malaysia and my Book Of The Month for February 2019

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us...

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master's severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master's soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother's debts. One night, Ji Lin's dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren's mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin's paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

Captivating and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores the rich world of servants and masters, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and unexpected love. Woven through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

I've got three Malaysian-authored novels to read soon and if the other two are as amazing as The Night Tiger, I shall be incredibly happy. I absolutely loved this novel! Set in the Kinta Valley in the early 1930s, The Night Tiger is beautifully balanced story that incorporates a variety of themes and cultures. Malaysia at the time was a British colony so we see a little of the madness of trying to recreate a little England in a tropical climate. The central focus however is a dual coming-of-age storyline as Ji Lin and Ren must individually navigate through society's expectations and the edges of a spiritual world in order to stop a murdering weretiger who appears to be preying on local people.

Choo cleverly intertwines her differing realities, blurring the physical and spiritual dimensions so frequently neither we, as readers, or the characters are completely sure which events can be considered real. Various recurring motifs such as the role of trains and railway stations, or the luck of various numbers, add great depth to the story and I was fascinated by the Confucian connections between the characters' names. There are so many layers to The Night Tiger. It is a truly wonderful novel in which to become immersed!

I felt strongly for Ji Lin who is not at all what a young 1930s Malaysian woman should be in her behaviour or her attitudes, yet she always came across to me as an authentic creation. I could understand the tension of her difficult home life and the fraught family dynamics are often shocking. Initially I couldn't work out how Ji Lin's path would cross Ren's, and I was engrossed in both their stories. The narration switches between the two in an easy and natural way, yet the story itself is pretty complicated. There are a few gory images that I hope won't dwell too long in my mind, however I feel that The Night Tiger will be a truly memorable novel. I will be surprised if it doesn't become my Book of the Month! Brilliant writing!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yangsze Choo / Historical fiction / Books from Malaysia


  1. Glad to hear that you liked it so much.

  2. You manage to read so diversely when it comes to authors and when it comes to setting of stories as well. Which is why I love your recommendations! I really like the sound of how the author manages to connect the different realities. It sounds lovely <3

    1. A fab mix of historical fiction and paranormal legends. Great novel!

  3. Glad to hear this was so great! Those not-sure-what's-real books can be hard to pull off.

    1. Yes, sometimes the blend doesn't work too well, t I thought that Choo pitched The Night Tiger perfectly :-)