The House of Little Sisters - Eva Wong Nava
Genre: Historical Fiction | YA (Target age: 12-17)
Synopsis: It's August of 1931 in Singapore, sixteen-year-old Lim Mei Mei (Ah Mei) arrives at the home of Eminent Mister Lee on the eve of the Hungry Ghost Month. She has been sold to the family as a mui tsai, an indentured servant girl. At the Lee household, Lim Mei Mei's life education begins. There she encounters the spirit of Ah Lian, a mui tsai, who paid the ultimate price for her mistake. Through Ah Lian, Ah Mei discovers the plight of mui tsai, who are both helpless and powerful, and uncovers a shameful secret lurking in the shadows in the Lee house. Ah Mei also meets and falls in love with Hassan Mohamed, an Indian-Muslim and an aspiring poet, breaking every clause in the rule book of love in 1930s British Malaya. She becomes Hassan's Polar Star, and the young lovers must find a way to stay together. Through a twist of fate, Ah Mei finds a solution that will keep her and Hassan together, at the same time gaining agency that will secure her own future as an uneducated servant girl in British Malaya.
The House of Little Sisters is such an engrossing read that it time-travels you to its milieu of 1930s Singapore and doesn’t let you go, till the very last page — a testimony of Eva Wong Nava’s attention to period details and exquisite storytelling skills.
Riveting and impossible to put down! Such a beautiful, exciting, bittersweet story of old Nanyang that is suffused with longing and nostalgia. The cast of characters come alive through Eva Wong Nava’s masterful storytelling, and we see the story unfold through their eyes like a waking dream. Absolutely loved it!
A gourmet tale so sumptuous and fragrant, it deserves five Michelin stars. A beautiful, haunting visceral experience. You'll savour the sights, sounds and smells of pre-WW II Singapore and be mesmerized by a cast of characters as delicately layered and sumptuously rich as a delicious kueh lapis. If this book were a dish, it would deserve five Michelin Stars. Eva Wong Nava cooks up a special tale that will be savoured by generations to come.
My Thoughts: I would firstly like to thank Love Books Tours for organising this tour and allowing me to read a copy of the book in exchange for a review. What a book! I was lured in by the book cover and it being a YA historical fiction novel and I can confirm that it did not disappoint.
This book brought out ALL of the emotions and there was a lot I really liked about this book. I very much enjoyed that it was an all Asian cast as this is something I haven't read before. It was an immersive experience and a book that I managed to consume in one sitting. From a perspective of the book's target audience, 12 to 17 year olds, I think that this book is so important in terms of representation for ethnic minorities being read by Western-world readers.
With regards to the writing, Eva Wong Nava wrote this book so beautifully. It was so easy to imagine the world that the characters were living in and historically it was an interesting period of time to write about.
There wasn't necessarily anything in particular that held it back from being a 5 star read - I'm just a harsh marker! If this book sticks around in my mind over the next few months then it will definitely get upgraded to a 5 star due to the memorability factor - I think this could be the case!!
All in all, this is a wonderful little book that I enjoyed very much. Diversity for younger readers is so important and it's something that I feel very passionate about so I was really glad to see an all Asian cast, and the book being set in a part of the world that's very different from other YA reads.