About the Book:
Welcome to the black heart of Singapore’s maid culture, where a woman’s life is cheap in one of the richest countries in the world.
Here are the voices of the unheard, of maid and employer, of village girl and city dweller. Follow Lucilla, Ma’am Leslie, Shammi and Madame Eunice as they strive, each in her own way, to exist in a country in which dark shadows lie beneath its pristine exterior.
The lives of these women are woven together by a narrative which is always candid and often brutal, as it explores the effects of loss, madness, abuse and hope during a woman’s life and in society as a whole.
I read a review for this novel, Bitter Leaves, earlier in the year, and while the review wasn’t overly glowing, it was still fairly solid and the premise of the novel sounded quite interesting to me, so I marked it as one to come back to.
I sat down to read some more this afternoon, I’m at about the 150 page mark, so over halfway, and it occured to me that I’m really not enjoying the novel at all. That if I were to finish it, it would be an exercise in forcing myself and I’ve got way too much waiting for me on my #tbr to keep on ploughing through something that is just not grabbing me. This novel was actually my selection for my final bingo category: reading a book with an author of the same initials as you. Didn’t quite work out like I envisaged, but not every book is a perfect fit for every reader.
I think my issue with this novel is mostly to do with the way it’s executed. It’s told entirely in the first person, which sometimes can work really well, but in this case, it’s just coming off as very monotone and stilted, a reiteration of events that aren’t moving forward. And it’s rather miserable, which is of course in keeping with the theme of the story, but I can’t help but feel as though it is a grim train to nowhere, for want of another expression. There is so much cruelty and abuse, too much so, it overwhelms and left me feeling quite drained, and the cast is far too large to keep track of without effort. As far as topics of writing go, it’s a very valid one with many interesting threads of possibility. It’s heartbreaking, how these maids are treated, so don’t for a moment think that I am dismissing the validity of this story or nullifying its importance. The story is one I’m interested in, I just don’t want to read it in its current state.
I’ll just chalk this one up to being a case of a misfit between the book and the reader. This whole not finishing a book that I’m not really liking is still very new to me. I’m not sure if it’ll ever sit all that well but like I said, there’s lots and lots of books on my #tbr that I can’t wait to get to, so it’s a case of #dnf for Bitter Leaves.
Published by Unbound (a crowdfunding/pledge publishing project)
Released March 2019