Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
Nicki Chen’s debut novel is set in the late 1930s-1940s, against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China. The Japanese Imperial army came as liberators- to free Asia from the clutches of the Anglo-American power and create ‘The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’. The true picture however was dismal. Tiger Tail Soup is the story of An Lee, a young woman left alone to protect her family in the midst of the Japanese invasion. The first person narrative tries to portray the day to day problems faced by an ordinary woman, in the wake of the occupation.
An Lee, must make choices in order to survive. With her husband away at war, she takes it upon herself to defend the women and children in her home. Times have changed and An Lee along with some of her friends step out from the confines of their homes to defy the Imperialists. Nicki Chen has tried to show the resilience and strength of an ordinary woman in times when all hope is lost.
Much has been written about China covering centuries- from invasions to the rise of communism. With the bar set high by writers such as Jung Chang, Lisa See and Amy Tan, Nicki’s novel cannot escape comparison. While the story line shows promise, the narrative fails to captivate. Much that I would have liked to feel what An Lee was feeling, the whole narrative comes across in a reporting manner. The flow of the story is jagged and unappealing. There is no plot and the story drags on.
China with all it’s beauty, customs and intrigue has definitely been portrayed better in other books. There are many other stories about women and their resilience in times of war and oppression. If I was to point out one positive about this book, it would definitely be the title- Tiger Tail Soup. If you do read the book you will understand why.