Monday, December 06, 2010
Sweet Mandarin By Helen Tse
At first I thought this is just another novel coz I bought this book due to the author's name. Love reading books from Asian writers.
Later when I read through, I discovered that this is not just any novel. It's a true story of the courageous journey by 3 generations of Chinese women in a family.
Helen Tse's grandmother, Lily Kwok, came from a very poor farming family in China. When her great grandfather tried to make a life for his family by venturing into business, his life was cut short by an unfortunate incident.
His widow and 6 daughters were left at the mercy of his relatives. They were bullied. But Lily Kwok was a bright child and managed to get herself some sort of education and become an Amah.
She married for love and had two children, Arthur and Mabel(Helen's mother). But love does not survive.
During Japanese Occupation she was with a Dutch family and since the Dutch were not fighting with the Japanese, she was "protected" . She even learnt a bit of Japanese which probably have saved her life.
After the Occupation she went to work with a British family. And subsequently had the hard choice of following the family back to UK or to stay in Hong Kong.
At last she went to UK. There she managed to built a life for herself and bring her children to stay with her.
She worked hard and managed to built a small fortune. Arthur moved away and Mabel got married. Then they lost everything.
It was very hard but their perseverance paid off. Lily, Mabel and later on Helen with her siblings re-built what they have lost.
There is one part which really moved me. Helen's restaurant have been broken into and everything was stolen. Helen asked Lily how could Lily sit there and be so calm when faced with the destruction. you know what Lily replied?
She laughed and said " when you get to be my age, you'll stop asking why things happen and learn to accept them".
I guess she is right at some point. Like the recent petrol and sugar price increase. Guess we'll just have to learn to accept them and find a way to deal with it.