I host a book club at my office/job where we pick one book per quarter to read and discuss. This time it was The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. In the past we have done:
It’s obvious I have forgotten to share some of our notes from past meetings. I think I’ll dig them up and schedule them in.
There were two participants this time around. Covid-19 is causing us to be very busy and some people have not been available to attend the last few meeting but we carry on!
This time our meting was over Teams.
We both liked the book but are also a bit hesitant to say “like”. The book is above “its ok”. It was enjoyable to read but it was not mind-blowing. It was good.
We both like the genre of magical realism and how the book developed from this normal story and into fantasy/magical realism. The development of the magic was interesting to see unfold. The story started so innocently without anything magical and ended with so much explained magic it too some of the enjoyment away. It the beginning it was all mystical. We were questioning the magical elements at every turn; is it magic or is this just a dream. Then the story explained it all and some of the magic behind the mystery fell away. The magic was wrapped up too nicely, there was no mystery left. But then we are both seasoned fantasy readers and are probably asking too much. However, we still liked ho the genre of the book developed throughout the book.
By the end of the book we both questioned the science behind the magic. With all good books there is some limitations to the magic to create some tension, but here it felt a bit loose. There weren’t enough rules for us to “buy it”, but the again we are both seasoned fantasy readers and it might be different for others. It was good that the magic was explained and spelt out by the end what was and what was not magic, but at the same time it lost some of it magic by doing that. Maybe it was too explained. It became less of a mystery.
The added plot line of all the virtues made it more complex and fascinating. They all fitted together somehow, and this line of plot wasn’t given the full attention it deserved. The plot twists with the Lei characters was interesting.
We both liked the mystery element of the book. Everything was a mystery in the beginning and as you felt the two characters come together and fall away, we constantly questioning how they would meet and how they were connected, etc. It was all a mystery. It all started with the deadline of 49 days or Ren to bring back his dead masters lost finger. That is the promise we are given in the beginning. How Ren would reach it was a mystery and as Ren goes through the story, he adds mysteries to the story. There are also several murders and it almost felt a bit like a murder mystery at times. The deadline along with the mysteries gave to tension and speed of the book. It was an enjoyable mix of deadline and mystery.
The was the issue that the ending didn’t align with that promise in the beginning. The book went on beyond the missing finger and the climax was on something very different than the promise. The ending wasn’t the expected ending. Also, the twist in the end with added information felt a bit cheated. But then we both dislike twists that involves new information however the twist with the Lei characters was interesting even though it was new information. It was sad that William died as he was so close to atone for what he had done. Yes, he was a dick but still. Lydia would never atone. The irony of this twist did not go amiss.
We found the characters interesting. It was interesting to see William writing to Iris as a way to deal with his guilt, but then being constantly reminded of what he had done by seeing Lydia every day.
However, our main character Ji Lin was something else. We both felt she was given the two jobs and the many suitors just to show she was independent. We didn’t feel she had much autonomy in her, but the story and side characters showed us she did. It was a bit confusing. She wouldn’t have been able to stand alone int his story. Ren adds a yang to her yin in here. She didn’t have the ability to be a heroine so to speak.
We liked how clumsy all her past and present suitor were or how they were describes as having sweaty hands and being clumsy. All apart from Shin which set him away from the rest. Maybe he was meant to be her only weakness and her other suitors sets him in a better view.
We both questioned the romance in here. We questioned both the fact that they were siblings by marriage but also her lack of feeling towards him, but then suddenly she had feeling for him. She didn’t share her feeling for him before sometime into the book and she always denied them which made them feel less. He had a way of being possessive and controlling but in the view of his abusive father, Shin came across as kind. Her lack of autonomy highlighted his controlling way unless it made him seem controlling because she lacked it. He did have some possessive language and he did get rid of all her previous suitors so he did have some control, but her lack may have made it seem worse. Her autonomy really showed in these scenes and stuck out like a sore thumb, which is why we debated whether he was her only weakness.
Yes, there was the element of them being siblings by marriage and her stepfather never legally adopting her left her free. But there was the element of them talking about each other as brother and sister. It was uncomfortable but at the same time made you deal with your own prejudices as they weren’t illegal in any way.
The relationship felt a bit too modern and felt squeezed into an older story. The end where she suddenly decided to live apart for a year felt a bit shoehorned into the story. We questioned the historical accuracy to this.
The book could have been done without the romance, though it was a nice side story to have. We weren’t sold on the relationship, but we both want them to be happy.
Ren was a whole other character. We both like Ren as a character. He was the one with most of the magic. We felt his story got passed over by the romance side. We also felt he was left behind in the end when he was in an almost coma and couldn’t do anything. We felt sad he didn’t get any resolution for the finger he worked so hard to get back. However, it did feel a bit easy that Ren would have all these gift to find the finger so easily, but we questioned whether these gift was actually to find Ji Lin because of her connection to Ren’s brother in her dreams. That part was never cleared up.
We felt both happy that Ren had a happy ending as we were both routing for him.
The setting in the book is well describes in perfectly picturable scenes. The heat, humidity, the plants, the earth was all there and we both bought the scenery easily. The descriptions of how William Acton was behaving when only Ren was about highlighted the heat and humidity in the area. Also, the description of the ore shop made us feel like this was not a good place. We could clearly visualize it.
All in all, this was not a bad book.
Book club meeting success!!
Until next time; happy reading!