In Japanese-occupied Malaya, lives are shattered and a woman discovers her inner strength in a world ravaged by war.
Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight.
Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she never could have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attentions of another man.
Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.
This is the sequel to The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds and I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I really loved The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds and I was a bit wary about the sequel because I felt like I would always be comparing the two and it wouldn’t be me judging the book on its own merits, rather in comparison to the first book in the series.
This book was very different to the first book in some ways and similar as well. Mei Foong was a completely different person to Chye Hoon and her voice and her decisions made sense for her characters, as aggravating as they could be for me as a reader. One thing I really loved about this book, which was the same as the first book, was how real it felt. Mei Foong didn’t make the sensible decision or the decision you wished she would make and the ending definitely wasn’t a ‘happily ever after’ for her but that made it even more realistic for me. Considering this book was written as Mei Foong looking back on her life, there were several events where she said she outright regretted how she acted and I loved that. It didn’t fit in the usual narrative and it’s one of the charms of this series. The characters all felt really realistic and you could understand their motivations even though you didn’t agree with them.
This book was set firmly in the real world, from the talk about real life passing to the historical research, right down to how the Japanese would look on their defeats in the war and the rate of inflation. I love the author’s writing style, I feel like it really suits the story she tells. I really liked reading about the time period this was set in, how Mei Foong’s feelings towards the British and the Japanese were complicated and how she was trying to keep her family together, at the same time as wanting the Japanese out of her home.
That being said, compared to the first book in the series, I didn’t like this one as much. It didn’t go so quickly for me. I think this opinion is personal to me but I preferred the character of Chye Hoon to Mei Foong and I preferred the narrative style of birth to death which was the style in the first book, as well as the slow-moving nature of the first book. On the other hand, I really liked how this sequel showed us another side of Chye Hoon and her various friends and relatives. I am so glad that this sequel followed Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, rather than any of her biological children, as well as following another woman, rather than a male character. Women were very limited in their choices and Mei Foong was different to Chye Hoon, as well as being married to someone a lot different to her father-in-law. It was an interesting flip to see how Mei Foong did her best for her and her family to survive in a world where her opinion was not respected as much as her husband’s, because it was so different to what Chye Hoon would have done and also very different situations.
As a standalone book, I would probably give this four and a half stars and I would definitely recommend it. Since I can’t give it four and a half stars, I would round it up to five stars because I would still buy a hard copy of this book if I get the chance and if another story is posted in this series, I would jump on it without a second thought.