About the Book
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.
Format: Hardcover, ebook (480 pp.) Publisher: Quercus
Published: 12th February 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
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10 Things I Loved About The Night Tiger
The setting. The book vividly conjures up the culture of Malaya in the 1930s through descriptions of food, clothing and customs and a social structure divided between the colonial and indigenous populations.
Characters you love to hate. For me (and I suspect other readers) this chiefly means Lydia (memorably described as having hair like a sponge cake) who starts out as plain annoying and clingy but develops into something quite different.
Characters you love to love. I defy any reader not to fall in love with houseboy, Ren, with his honest, trusting character and his devotion to his previous master and to carrying out his deathbed promise. However, caring about Ren entails a constant state of worry as he gets into one scrape after another, endangering both himself and possibly others.
Characters you’re just not sure about. For me, this was chiefly William, the ‘dissolute British doctor’ mentioned in the blurb. He’s a gifted surgeon but also a man with secrets in his past that he fears being revealed and some dubious morals. On the credit side, he takes Ren under his wing and recognises the boy’s talent so perhaps he can’t be all bad? He certainly seems to have luck (or fate) on his side at times.
The theme of twins. As well as actual twins, there are frequent references to similarities between characters, including in appearance. This will turn out to be pivotal to one particular plot strand.
The five Confucian virtues. This was something completely new to me but I loved the way the author incorporated the concept into the story, including through the use of the names of characters. I love when a book teaches me something new.
The imagery. I promise you that, having read the book, you will never think about a railway station in quite the same way again.
The Easter egg. For those unfamiliar with the meaning (outside of the chocolate-y treat) it refers to an intentional inside joke, in this case a reference to the title of the author’s previous book.
The gorgeous cover. As well as being beautiful, it has a dreamlike quality that captures the spirit of the book with the abundant, encroaching jungle hiding tigers and who knows what else. I think it also encapsulates the beautiful, lush writing, especially in the recurring dream sequences, and the elements of mysticism and magic that run alongside the main story.
The buddy read organised by Quercus. It was great to read the book, section by section, alongside other readers sharing thoughts on what we’d read so far and ideas on what we thought might happen next (usually wrong). The involvement of the author – offering insights on the book, her writing process and alternative plot ideas she’d considered, plus answering questions from readers – was an additional delight. Check out the hashtag #NightTigerTogether on Twitter to get a flavour of the discussion, although be aware there will be spoilers.
I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, Quercus, and NetGalley.
In three words: Magical, multi-layered, mysterious
Try something similar…Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam (read my review here)
About the Author
Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. Due to a childhood spent in various countries, she can eavesdrop (badly) in several languages. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a management consultant before writing her first novel. Yangsze eats and reads too much, and often does both at the same time. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)
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