Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Bondmaid by Catherine Lim


Set in Singapore in the early 1950s, The Bondmaid captures the special ethos of a wealthy and powerful Chinese household in that bygone era.

A little girl, Han, is sold as a bondmaid into the House of  Wu, where she grows up with the young heir.  But the idyll of childhood attachment quickly turns into a nightmare of a thwarted sexual passion, as Han, beautiful, proud and uncompromisingly loyal, struggles against the forces of tradition and tyranny in a household where patriarchs and matriarchs wield inexorable power, lustful male relatives watch young bondmaids to claim their rightful share of pleasure, and gods and goddesses smile to see the human drama unfold. 

The Bondmaid chronicles the power of one woman's love - right to its terrifying climax.

After reading The Bondmaid, I can't believe that the story is set in early 50s and some more in Singapore..  For what the story represents and from the way it weaves, it could and should have set in feudal era in ancient China.

For someone who never enjoyed reading Asian authors, I quite like this author.  However, I didn't enjoy the way the author portrays women in this book - submissive, meek, dependent and totally without much character.  The author gave Han some gumption at the beginning of the book but the gumption seems to disappear the minute Han met the young master even at such early age.  She became totally besotted with him and you can guess that things don't fare well with such friendship what more to say relationship.

However, looking at it from another prospective, Catherine Lim might be trying to give a voice to the voiceless - the many bondmaid that went through many households of the rich.  These woman really didn't have much of a choice having being sold off at an early age to these families and how well they lived very much depended on themselves as well as their masters and mistresses of the household.

This book gave me a glimpse of the lives of such women and for that I appreciated it.

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