ô The Black Isle ½ Download by ☆ Sandi Tan What first intrigued me about this book is its paranormal element I don t often read much historical fiction unless it either comes highly recommended or the defined plot is irresistibly alluring choosing Sandi Tan s debut novel presented the latter element I m amazed by how deeply I was absorbed in a novel which considered such a range of topics I ve never deliberately explored To be engrossed by Cassandra s haunting past and seized by events rooted in Asian culture verifies the author s skillfulness in liberating a history which is regularly silenced The experience of reading this book was both enjoyable and educational a balance that is cherished for its infrequency.
The Black Isle tells a story brought to life by dimensional characters, a vivid setting, and the author s honed craft of careful and deliberate writing The metaphors that are delicately weaved throughout the novel work to enhance the reality of Cassandra s burdensome endeavors as she struggles to accept who she becomes during evolving situations Tan s characters are unquestionably complex absolutely every character she introduces is not who they initially appear to be The author carefully introduces taboo subjects without relieving the reader s comfort.
What concerned me throughout the book was the resigned attitude of the main character during circumstances which permitted, even invited her retaliation, Cassandra stood resolute and passive In her past she has amply proven that she takes pleasure in speaking her mind, but as she grows old and submits to her age she represses her own ability to be heard and readily ceases to exercise her opinion to those who are in dire need of a wake up call Rather than her ability to see and speak to ghosts, it becomes apparent that she is actually cursed by her reserved silence Nonetheless, Cassandra is a strong character She may not flaunt an unfettered courage or brute strength, but her ability to endure in the most hopeless situations is unparalleled.
In The Black Isle, the reader will quickly become entranced by Cassandra s somber and sagacious tale as they too gradually fail to resist the ghosts that haunt them.
Rating 1 2 4.
5 5 Well I really hate calling it quits but this is just not grabbing me at all I had full intentions of setting it aside for now and coming it back to it at a later date but I happened to stumble upon someone s conversation about the book and octopus sex came up And they weren t talking about two octopodes Yes That s octopus plural I looked that shit up See going at it Humans were involved And all interest flew out the window.
While The Black Isle is absolutely beautifully written, some of the content is just not for me The story is intriguing, it s a dark and dramatic tale of a woman haunted by the dead The pacing is great, it moves gracefully The characters are all interesting and well written.
My problem is the sexual situations I am not a prude, by any means, and have read some rather racy books in the past However, some of the situations in this book were just so not appealing in any way to me and they were really hard to read through There are few things that will make me set a book down and one was in this book I m greatly saddened by it, again because the writing and story outside of these strange sexual things is so beautiful I would say if you can handle some incest and beastiality then this would be a great read It just wasn t for me, unfortunately Huge thanks to Grand Central Publishing for allowing me the opportunity to read this Let s just call a spade a spade The Black Isle is pretty much Singapore transmogrified into something unrecognizable, but still familiar it is unfortunate but thic book comes across as a mish mash of historic, fantasy and magic realism, with altered realism winning out in the end.
As a resident of The Black Isle , as Sandi once was, I have to say this is a mess of what could have been a really interesting book She could not decide if she was going for an alternate history or ghost story or drama so everything is thrown at the wall and fingers crossed, something will stick Nope It all slides down and there is a putrid mess of a plot left on the floor.
There are nudges winks to aspect life of Singapore history and locale but the problem is for islanders such as myself, it deters from the flow of whatever plot ere might be For non islander, it is hard to anchor onto any semblance of coherence in the plot Someone at Grand Central have been drinking too much Cool Aid and thinking of passing this off as some new age exoticism.
This is not haunting It is a nightmare.
She s an old Asian woman who lives by routine making weekly visits to the store, to the laundry, doing what old women do.
Most important, she goes to the archive section of the library every Saturday to visit the book the book that contained her photograph, surrounded by a story filled with lies but that revealed one truth She can communicate with ghosts.
Then, one Saturday she finds the book she s been quietly visiting for decades has been vandalized Most of the pages have been torn out In the photograph, her head has been blackened out with marker A feeling of dread descends upon her someone, she decides, is trying to erase her life.
As she slowly makes her way back to her apartment, she sees two crows collide and then plummet to the ground That, she decides, can t be good.
Later that evening, she receives a telephone call from a woman who identifies herself as a university professor writing a book on superstition in 20th century Asia, and asking for an interview The professor punctuates her request with an ominous statement Someone and this person or persons must really be obsessed has been cutting you out of history The old woman hangs up, deciding she will not let herself be wiped out I will not become a ghost The Black Isle, the debut novel of Sandi Tan, tells the story of Ling, born to a middle class family in 1922 Shanghai She has a twin brother, Li, and a set of younger twin sisters Ling s mother is agoraphobic, and her father is a quiet, hen pecked schoolteacher.
She sees her first ghost when she s 7 one of her mother s former housemaids who killed herself when Ling was an infant The uproar created when she lets the household know about her vision leads her to vow not to mention her spiritual abilities again.
Shortly afterward, the family s fortunes take a drastic turn for the worse The Great Depression that followed the 1929 American stock market crash makes its way around the world, and Shanghai is not spared The family s savings are erased and the family patriarch loses his job The only thing to do, the parents decide, is for the father to travel to The Black Isle to work and send his salary back to support the homestead It is also decided that Ling and Li will accompany their father.
And it is while living in The Black Isle actually, a band of tropical islands in the South Seas that Ling s spiritual powers seem to go wild She sees ghosts everywhere and spends most of her time trying to ignore their questions regarding their deaths or the whereabouts of their loved ones.
At one point, her father becomes the caretaker of a rubber plantation that is not only filled with ghosts that Ling alone can see, but that is supposedly haunted by pontianaks spirits of women who die in childbirth When a pontianak attacks Ling s family, she decapitates the supposedly mythical creature after it kills a visitor.
Shortly after, Ling separates from her brother and father and finds employment as a companion for the rich Wee family World II looms, and the Japanese invasion and occupation of The Black Isle forever changes Ling s life and she becomes an important part of The Black Isle s history Her contribution is so important the few who know about her role realize The Black Isle might never have made it into the 21st century without Ling s help So why would someone want her removed from the history books Beautifully written, with a storyline that spans 70 years, The Black Isle is a historical novel that is both breathtaking and haunting The characters are vivid some simply charming, some horrifyingly scary and the plot has so many twists and turns it seems as though you re reading a winding country road.
There are some plot points, however, that some might find a bit than controversial, including a somewhat incestuous relationship and an incident of bestiality that, to be honest, is so mind boggling it s hard to believe And because the episode did nothing to move the plot forward, it probably would have been best to simply excise it from the story.
Minor flaws notwithstanding, The Black Isle is an engaging and engrossing novel that will absolutely captivate you and should not be missed It will take you on a journey you will not soon forget.
note i m quite surprised that people actually read my midnight review that was riddled with grammatical errors lol Even I can t make sense of what I wrote Truth to be told This 90th book of my reading challenge that made the most lasting impact in all my days of 2012 s reading First of all, because the story is set in a place and in a time settings that I was naturally familiar with Second, I was familiar with the characterizations and understand the ravages that plague the characters Third, although Asian history was not on of my favourable subject but the book made it intriguing enough to make me continue reading from past midnight till dawn it was around 6am now and last night, before my kitchen class, I had drunk a potent concoction of caffeine and chocolate that kept me awake even after my usual nightly babysitting of my fussy baby nephew that instead of continuing sleeping on this very bed, amidst being surrounded by the warmth that I had left after sitting in avid trance at a length of time, I went on to review the book while it s still fresh.
Why suddenly I m filled with flowery words now I blame the book Really.
The descriptive writing style is linear and easy to comprehend It flows with occasional setbacks from the futures and the timeline converging itself into a memoir told by an old woman about her past Personally, I can hardly find fault in the author s writing style and I rarely read descriptive novels I do enjoy reading her prose despite it being too infectiously flowery The story was written in the woman s point of views with careful fluidity of a structured storylines and it does contrast to the dark world of the darkest part of the century.
The story is narrated in several time frames from the introduction of the narrator, an old woman in the future, to the narrator s past when she was called Ying with her family in Shanghai As a child, she had led a rather privilege life despite her growing up to an absent father, a shrewd mother, an attention hungry twin brother, a finicky sets of sisters and the watchful eyes of her maids Then one day, an incident tore at the relationship between her and her brother made her became sensitive enough that she began to see ghastly things in her room As the world at the brink of the first war and as the inevitable events that surround the 20th century era finally led her father, her twin brother and herself being spirited away to a curious isle called Black Isle or Pulau Hitam, leaving her mother and twin sisters to their old house in Shanghai.
Her relationships with her two family member were strained heavily and she began to find herself occupied by a mysterious man called Mr Odell whom she eventually carry a flame for and whom she looked up to When they arrived to the island, she immediately found herself repelled by the astral beings and divide of the caste in the new world where she have to call home She eventually being schooled in a catholic school that was filled with haunted beings that plagued her every move and with every little things she try to do, not everything had happen as she expected Cassandra was a character that I was a bit curious about and had some of the traits that hated She was a strong soul but had a hunger need to be seen but not seen With every mistake she made, her character grew with every year and events that scarred her She reminded me a bit of Cersei Lannister, which actually there are similarities at some moments in the middle of the story that made me stare in surprise She sees the world in a really small frame and ambitious enough until she realized her mistake but then its too late She was confusing and at some times can be extremely frustrating and can be idiotic She s intriguing which made her somehow complicated and layered as a real person which made her a decent character to be read.
In the beginning of the book, I was a bit confused with the story until the end where I look up again to the beginning and saw the broken pictures that consisted of the map of the South East Asia and the curious island Here s the deal, the Malay peninsula was severely cropped leaving anything below Perak and parts of Terengganu Pahang, Malacca, parts of Selangor, and west of Johor absent from the map leaving a very large dot of an island that was where the place was set in and exaggerating the island I don t know about you, fresh water is an issue in the island, the issue that was absent in the novel I was reading the book thinking that The Black Isle was the size of Singapore since obviously from reading the book that the whole story is a fictionalized Singapore but since the island is right on top of Johor, that was somehow a glaring historical bias especially with the portrayals of the locals in the book.
In case you re wondering, Singapore is a part of Malaya until 1965 so essentially from the map and at the end of the book, you get a feeling that most of the story does had the feeling of being sanitized I really need to convince myself that it s just a fiction since the book does have several plot holes in its superbly superstitiously noir world Since the story was from the 20th century till the 21st, the story revolved around the issue of mass migrations, the social caste between the residents, the british empire, the locals superstitions, the conditions in the rubber plantation, the world war II with the Japanese occupying the Asia Pacific, communism, the late 20th century s economy To include a barrage of historical issue in one book is deary enough for the readers but for me, it was until the end of war in the book that was what made me sceptical and the plot holes became apparent enough that it left me with the feeling of half glass empty the whole time.
Japanese war experiments was a major subplot in the book but curiously, so is the absence of British POW in the book which are prominent Not everyone left I actually know an English guy who told me that his father was in Malaya when the Japanese arrived To date, his father was still mute about his experience In history, the British soldiers were taken to concentration and prison camps Some were killed, starved to death, made to work until they were just bags of bones The Japanese reign in Asia pacific lasted only several years but it left a huge scar to old veterans and the locals It is rare to find older people who are willing to tell the depravities of the Japanese in the time of war If you look up Burmese Death Rail, you ll see that it was build by the blood of these POWs.
Even now, there are still unsolved issues in the current government especially with the higher people trying to shut down those who want to be seen such as the comfort woman , pre teen and teenage girls sent to various parts of the war conquered parts to be a sexual release to the soldiers Its also a way to control venereal diseases that plague the soldiers So, in a way, the book doesn t give much to the readers in terms of the realities.
And it s quite fascinating that for a tale set in Nusantara part of South East Asia that there are absolute no mention of the Malay royalties and the social caste of Malays in a predominantly Nusantara area there are Bourgeois Malays in that era, not just slaves and coolies in rubber plantation In fact, food rationing was severe in those times that a lot of people resort to using barleys or tapioca since rice were in short supply.
I would understand it being a subject that the author wasn t familiar with but in recent year s I ve experience and seen weird mystical things by superstitious people when I visited down south and honestly there s a bunch of Indonesian related mysticism that can be explored to make the portrayed supernatural to be a child s play I also found the Issa is an unconvincing character for a Malay witchdoctor some things I just had to raise an eyebrow about that the whole thing plot around him was kind of bland and seems like something that the author simplified so much that I feel the idea wasn t being fully researched properly I guaranteed you this, any mention of Malay mysticism in this book is just a pinky dip to a vast sea of the things that you could make a whole new fiction about But again, it is not a major grievance since I do not expect it from the author.
This year, I have being exposed to the Australian sleuth series s Miss Fisher s Murder Mysteries and the story was set in between the world wars like this book and does included communism mentions in the series by struggling post WWI veterans against the British capitalist In this book, the communism sentiments was prevalent among some of the character due to the Japanese occupation and later the British Frankly, it was way complicated by that I was sort of curious why that was also oversimplified Unlike this book, the communists rebels post Japanese occupation was obviously based on Malayan People s Anti Japanese Army, a product of the Maoist idealism and an army of people hell bent to kill those who survived the war that are suffering the least This is the reality that a lot of innocent people were killed while these groups are rampaging through the states seeking Japanese sympathisers and unruly enough that the British migrate people from the entire state just to avoid these communists attacking the people for food and shelter Most of this happen in gun points.
This effectively sanitize the whole era of terror, the whole world politics involved and although it make the supernatural story that was prevalent in the book seemed plausible but at history context, there s a lot of weakness in the book.
The main issue in the book was that it was the idea that the British left the island colony upon hearing the incoming Japanese invasion that the people of the island were helpless until the end of the invasion due to the atomic bombs and when the British came and expect things to be as it is until the people rise against them Here s the thing, the invasion happen only days before Pearl s Harbor It happened so suddenly that the british, who had armed the sea outposts looking for incoming soldiers, haven t expected was that the Japanese infiltrated from the thickness of indochina jungles into the peninsular using just bikes and avoiding the heavily defended sea There was hundred of thousands British soldiers that were caught and became Prisoners of war in a blink.
I was familiar with this since I was literally drowned by the reading materials and rereadings that all of these information had stuck like a glue in my long term memory and I do occasionally watched the documentaries of the eras, read stories of the era and listening to my family s war stories and other people s war stories In fact, could make a whole historical fiction book based on what I kept inside my head So, naturally I caught the discrepancies in the storylines that it was apparent that the author was made unaware of a lot of these or the editors itself felt it was harmless enough Well, here s the thing about historical fiction For someone, who may not familiar of what happened with the era in this side of the world can magically became facts.
To argue about the accuracies, you could always take it to an alternate dimension take But AGAIN, it s a bloody fiction, I just leave it to that.
Frankly, I enjoy the book since the book is magnificently well written to the end despite some of the things I ve encountered along reading this that made me feel like it was a bit overzealous with its shock factor attempts there s a lot of subplots in the book that can make a person blush or scratch their heads And after I have analysed through my thoughts and feelings after the initial awesomeness subsides, I found that I had serious misgivings about the historical aspect of the story I would have been forgiving had not it bug me while writing this review which influence my re rating for the book Most of all, since I was VERY familiar with the era and I do live in the culture and the languages and familiar with the people issues and understand a HUGE chunk of what the book is portraying, the book made me very critical to it In a good way.
So for average readers, I do not think my issues for this book may bother you since its still a quality fiction with a storyline that was unlike anything you ve read in about Asian Literature section.
However, I do think its a good book that I would recommend if you like reading a combination of some genre with prominent adult horror storylines and adult historical setting but full of adult drama and contain serious romance elements The book might be hard on the stomach but the quality of the writing is refreshing and for most parts on local flavours of this part of Asia, the story does feel natural to be read I do expect to come by this author.
For easier comparison, its like True Singapore Ghost Stories meet Romance in the Rain meet The Haunted Changi meet Memoirs of a Geisha.
The ARC is supplied by the Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley.
com and will be published on 7th August 2012.
I clue you in, do pre order this book and I m sorry that I do a too bloody long review but what to do, it was my turf.
My blogpost for this review.
There Are Ghosts On The Black IsleGhosts That No One Can SeeNo Oneexcept Cassandra Uprooted From Shanghai With Her Father And Twin Brother, Young Cassandra Finds The Black Isle S Bustling, Immigrant Filled Seaport, Swampy Jungle, And Grand Rubber Plantations A Sharp Contrast To The City Of Her Childhood And She Soon Makes Another Discovery The Black Isle Is Swarming With GhostsHaunted And Lonely, Cassandra At First Tries To Ignore Her Ability To See The Restless Apparitions That Drift Down The Street And Crouch In Cold Corners At School Yet Despite Her Struggles With These Spirits, Cassandra Comes To Love Her Troubled New Home And Soon, She Attracts The Notice Of A Dangerously Charismatic ManEven As She Becomes A Fearless Young Woman, The Isle S Dark Forces Won T Let Her Go War Is Looming, And Cassandra Wonders If Her Unique Gift Might Be Her Beloved Island S Only Chance For Salvation Taking Readers From The S, Through The Japanese Occupation During WWII, To The Isle S Radical Transformation Into A Gleaming Cosmopolitan City, The Black Isle Is A Sweeping Epic A Deeply Imagined, Fiercely original Tale From A Vibrant New Voice In Fiction Please forgive the random flow of this review, I am supremely aggravated and all I can say is WHAT THE WHAT.
I want my 3 days of reading back This gets 1 star and a DNFreally I want to give it.
5 but alas I didn t finish the book but 100 pages from the end of a 452 page book that hasn t shown a hint of what I signed up for I feel like I gave it than the good ole college try I thought this was a story that was supernatural in nature and the ghost story would be an amazing part of the story and it isn t Well ok so the narrator at some point sees ghosts and she becomes like a demon so you are like ok ok well this is where this is going ok man fantastic.
then it derails and then narrator interacts with a ghost to keep her from haunting another so you stop and go oh ok ok not the demon but still this isn t a bad premise putting ghosts to rest a la unfinished business etc I can get behind this These 2 events happen at different plot points so you are hooked on the hope that they will lead somewhere but oh no it doesn t, it SUPER DOESN T I looked past the random incest and the random bestiality thinking this has to get better, I mean the premise is SO FREAKING GOOD I mean what is it with the freaking penetrating octopus thing with this culture.
I mean why and really unnecessary to the story The girl sees ghosts but it isn t anything much that has anything to do with anything other than she can see them but the way she interacts doesn t lead to any big storylines or plot points and that doesn t really do much for me The narrator doesn t get in touch with the ghosts or learn how to use her gifts to figure out how or why even though throughout the story is given EVERY FREAKING OPPORTUNITY This is billed as historical fiction with a supernatural edge and you might be led to believe that oh cool a ghost story set in wartime China and wow cool premise.
do not be deluded I think I am just pissed because the dust jacket leaves one to believe something totally different than what this book actually is If it is all resolved in the last 100 pages then this book can doubly EFFF OFFF I wish I had a way with words because my reviews never fully convey my awe THE BLACK ISLES, a novel by Sandi Tan has left my wordless I honestly can t describe how thoroughly it drew me in I felt like I was living in turn of the century Asia on a small island trying to decide who it was trying to decide who I was I was completely engrossed by the Asian culture.
BLACK ISLES, was told in two point of views, an old woman recording her life story and the young woman herself While the story certainly had supernatural elements it was Cassandra s life story as a whole that I found so fascinating The story spans over 70 years, so the reader really feels like they know the characters, which seems impossible because they were so incredible complex I constantly had to stop and question myself, because no character is who they first appear Sandi Tan has written a beautiful and haunting story and I m sad to be done with it its almost like I ve left a lover the story has been with me for days and even when I wasn t reading it was there in the back of my head.
I should note that there are some questionable scenes that might not be for everyone a semi incestuous relationship and a mind blogging incident with beastiality Some of the other sexual moments might not be for the faint of heart but besides the animal loving I thought they were meaningful to Cassandra s story.
THE BLACK ISLES, is a stand out book and you won t want to miss this read.
Burned by the discount section once again I should have stopped reading when a member of my book club posted a bad rating A clearer sign there couldn t be.
I was drawn to this book by the premise a girl who can see ghosts promises a story of the supernatural and the setting was intriguing as well I was curious too hear of the cultural significance of ghosts in the Chinese setting the superstitions, the belief system, etc Unfortunately this was not to be.
I have no idea where the author was going here, she seemed to be all over the place Is this a coming of age story in China during WWII A supernatural ghost story with Chinese influences Who knows The only consistent thing I could find in this story was the prevalence of sexual acts involving sea creatures Not only gross, but just plain weird.
I kept reading thinking maybe it would turn around and get good again like the first 20 30 pages or so But I finally had to give up at about Chapter 12 I just lost patience and interest.
As my book club buddy says Life is too short to read bad books.