Sunday, 3 July 2016


little hut of leaping fishes

This is a book whose title I wanted to change immediately to CAPITALS... it intrigued me from the start.

I've always been interested in other cultures, wanting to know how the people live, if they were happy with their lives, what impression the 'state' had on their lives, the good and the bad.. and how they worked around their cultural history to live the best life they could.

This beautifully written, complicated story, certainly gave me a lot to think about. Chiew-Siah Tei holds little back as she draws the reader into the lives of two babies, born just two months apart, in the dying days of Imperial China, in 1875... The grandfather of the two boys, half brothers, rules the province with an iron fist, as becomes a feudal landlord and an opium farmer. Yet, he has a special place for his first born grandson who is destined to become a Mandarin, whether he likes it or not... while the second grandson has a very ambitious and indulgent mother, who thinks her son should be the chosen one. 

One chooses education to better not only himself, but his people, the other succumbs to the overwhelming power of opium.

 However, this is not without lightheartedness, despite the various tragedies that seem to bounce around both boys and follows them into manhood. It's more about relationships, of mystery and determination, of overcoming the set paths that both were destined to lead and a very intriguing insight into the changing Chinese culture and the reluctance of the warlords and Mandarins to let the 'foreign devils' upset their long fought for rule.

At times, I had to take a breath at the apparent lack of respect for life in general and females in particular, then I was caught up again in the bravery of those who fought against it. I railed at the ignorance of the burning of books, as if that would stop the wave of new knowledge that was sweeping the country... and rejoiced in the meditation and peace found via the little hut. 

It's a story of love and friendship, of brutality and savagery, of greed and generosity and so much more... all beautifully woven together in the tapestry of life.

Chiew-Siah Tei is Malaysian born. She went to study in the UK in the 1990's,  then moved to Glasgow.  'little hut of leaping fishes' was her first novel and was listed for the Man Asian Literature Prize in 2007, Best Scottish Fiction Prize 2008 Readers' Choice Award in Malaysia.


  1. I think I need to wait until my brain is clearer before reading this. Thanks for the informative review.

  2. Once you get into it, which doesn't take all that long, it's hard to let it go. I wanted to absorb it all at once. It's a book that will stay with me, one to replay in my mind again and again. Thanks for your comment.


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