Hi everyone! Today, I am honoured to be the first stop on the blog tour for Song by Michelle Jana Chan. This was such a powerful story and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
What the book was about…
Opening in the mid-nineteenth-century, this dazzling debut novel traces the voyage of Song, a boy who leaves his impoverished family in rural China to seek his fortune. Song may have survived the perilous journey to the colony of British Guiana in the Caribbean, but once there he discovers riches are hard to come by, as he finds himself working as an indentured plantation worker.
Between places, between peoples, and increasingly aware that circumstances of birth carry more weight than accomplishments or good deeds, Song fears he may live as an outsider forever. This is a far-reaching and atmospheric story spanning nearly half a century and half the globe, and though it is set in the past, Song’s story of emigration and the quest for opportunity is, in many ways, a very contemporary tale.
What I thought of it….
I am so pleased that people pledged money to have this book published because it is a definitely a story worth telling.
In technical terms, the writing is superb. The author sets the scenes so perfectly, with sumptuous and evocative descriptions that really helped me to visualise a country I have neither seen nor read much about. There were some gorgeous foody bits (something you know I love) and I could almost feel the heat under the mosquito nets and see the shops on the dusty streets.
Song is such a great main character. His resilience is truly inspiring and I was rooting for him the whole way – though he is by means a perfect character. He has flaws and makes some bad decisions but I felt that there was an inherent goodness in him. And to come from the start he had in life, he could quite easily have taken a different direction. It was uncomfortable to read about Song as a 9-year-old boy going through all the hardships he faced but the author was very sensitive in her portrayal of these scenes.
It was not only the main character whom I loved in this novel. Father Holmes was a complete joy to read about; he is a priest in a severely deprived area and he believes everyone deserves a chance. He is so kind and lovely, teaching Song the importance of learning and not just accepting things as they are. Even minor characters felt well-developed; the author’s portrayal of women was something I really appreciated. Sassy Jingy was a particular favourite.
There are some wonderful moral questions raised in this book, which was definitely one of my favourite aspects. The author highlights racism and corruption in the Church, exploring how even priests and church-going citizens can segregate certain groups of people. (This is not me making any kind of judgement on religion, by the way – I’m merely highlighting that the author raised an important and valid issue.) I loved the way the author called out this discrimination and it had me feeling so righteous on Song’s behalf!
This book was so inspiring. At it’s heart, it’s a wonderful Steinbeck-esque tale of trying to make something of yourself and get that small piece of land to call your own. It conveys the message that we should all believe in the power of our dreams and dare to strive for something bigger. I highly recommend.
Thank you to Anne Cater, Unbound Publishing and Michelle Jana Chan for providing me with a copy of this stunning debut!
Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour!