Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (3/5)

19 Oct

When I started this book, I understood the concept of a Ghost Bride to be someone who marries a dead man. I didn’t think it would be a ghost story. I was thinking of pure historical fiction and that I’d learn about the cultural beliefs of Foreign-Born Chinese in Malaysia. So when Li Lan entered the world of the dead, I was surprised and excited to go on the adventure with her.

Cover image via Amazon

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Summary from Amazon:

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

This is what I get for not reading summaries before starting a book. I really enjoyed Li Lan’s story and learning more about the Planes of the Dead. However, I got frustrated with the book and felt like it was dragging a bit too much in places. It seemed like Lim Tien Ching’s deception at the hands of his family was unnecessary and Fan’s betrayal didn’t seem to do a lot. These things complicated the plot. And I was disappointed in the ending. I think the story would have been stronger without Li Lan’s change of heart.

I thought the characters were well-drawn and believable until the very end when Li Lan seemed to go against everything she’d worked for the entire book. I’m going to try and stay vague to remain spoiler-free, but I got really frustrated with her and mostly lost my respect for her and her character. The remaining characters were strong and consistent. Fan was a favorite, even though I thought her character could have left the story a little sooner. Amah was another favorite. I liked how well she knew Li Lan and cared for her and her mother.

Throughout the whole book, I felt like a lot of the characters changed which is a testament to Choo’s writing and how well crafted the story was. I can’t think of a character I liked for the entire novel besides Er Lang. He began caring for Li Lan and was there for her when she needed him. Despite my frustration with the ending, I have to admit he’s a great character and someone I would have liked to have by my side if I were going through what Li Lan experienced.

I really liked Tian Bai’s character and I felt connected to him more than most of the characters. I liked that he was humble and didn’t seem too proud; very unlike his cousin. He seemed like a kind person and I think he would have been a good partner for any woman, especially Li Lan.

Yangsze Choo
Image via the author’s website

I enjoyed Li Lan’s initial time as a spirit when she was walking around her town. I thought it was fun to see her explore other people’s homes and learn what it meant to be a spirit and how to function. It was a fun time for her to learn about the dead and how the spirits of those she’d lost were sometimes still around her.

I felt Li Lan’s time in the Planes of the Dead dragged on for far too long. I was curious about the place, but the amount of time she was there and the things that happened to her seemed too drawn out. I kept getting frustrated and wanted to see what happened when she returned more than I wanted to know what was happening with a secret plot in hell that turned out to be almost nothing.

Choo narrated her own audiobook. This often makes me nervous because I’m unsure how well someone whose talent is in writing will be able to voice act. Especially for fiction where it’s necessary to do accents, voices, and read dramatically. Choo did very well and I was impressed with her. I wasn’t expecting so much inflection in her voice and distinct voices for the characters but that’s what we got. Huge kudos to her for all her talents!

I don’t know if I felt like there was too much of a theme to this book. I felt like it was a fun exploration of the funeral beliefs of the culture but the plot of the book wasn’t a win for me. Li Lan didn’t like the man she was supposed to marry and when that was resolved, left her family uncared-for to chase a dream. (It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but this is what I felt fell flat at the ending.) I didn’t feel there was a theme of woman’s liberation or chasing a dream or anything much which frustrated me.

Writer’s Takeaway: It’s fun to explore the beliefs of a culture, historically or in a modern setting, through story. I felt like the Disney movie Coco did something similar and was a great way of explaining the Mexican traditions around The Day of the Dead. Of course, one has to be very well aquainted with a culture to use it as the plot of a story. Anyone who’s lucky enough to do that can create a beautiful narrative.

A fun setting, but not the story I wanted. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo | GraceLWrites 

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6 Responses to “Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (3/5)”

  1. anovelglimpse October 19, 2020 at 12:33 PM #

    I read this one and remember really liking it. I agree with your thoughts on it. Nice review.


    • Sam October 19, 2020 at 2:44 PM #

      Thank you! My book club reflection posts tomorrow with some other points I hadn’t thought of. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Julie Anna's Books October 19, 2020 at 7:58 PM #

    Great review! I’ve definitely been curious about this one and there are so many people reading it right now. I don’t quite know what happens at the end, but I get what you mean! There’s so many books where everything is so perfect right until the end.


    • Sam October 19, 2020 at 8:19 PM #

      I’m glad I kept it vague enough that I didn’t ruin it for you haha. This is a good ghost story to read in October but it’s not based around Halloween so it could be enjoyed any time. Happy reading!



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    […] Nothing this week but after having two last week, I’m not worried. I did write a review for The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo which posted on Monday so please check that […]


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