The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo – Book Review

Title: The Night Tiger

Author: Yangsze Choo

Genre/Themes: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery, Chinese Superstitions, Mythology

Blurb from Goodreads

They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us…

A captivating and magical story set in 1930s Malaysia about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy who are brought together by a series of unexplained deaths, and an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

My Review

The Night Tiger is a beautifully written historical fiction set in the 1930s that is rich in cultural detail about British ruled Malaya (modern day Malaysia) with heavy overtones of magical realism and mythology.

It follows the story of Ren, a young orphaned houseboy who is tasked with finding the severed finger of his deceased master, Dr MacFarlane, and to reunite it with his body before the end of 49 days or else MacFarlane’s soul will forever roam the earth and he will not rest in peace.

Running alongside Ren’s story is the story of Ji Lin, a dressmaker, who moonlights as a dancehall girl in order to pay her mother’s debts. One of her customers one day drops a small vial which contains a shrivelled finger and thus our two narratives begin…

I found it quite difficult to truly engage with this book. I think a lot of that was due to my own personal issues. For some reason from the very beginning I got very queasy thinking about all these severed fingers in the plot. It made me feel deeply unsettled and quite troubled by it as my brain clicked into overdrive and would not stop thinking about the horrors behind the act of mutilating people. It just was far too creepy. I really feel that this whole plot point prevented me from enjoying this book as I should as I could never get past those feelings of dread and disgust.

In addition, I found the pace of the narrative to be far too slow for me; if the narrative had flowed in a more upbeat tempo I think I might have been able to engage more with the plot and the characters.

However this book was incredibly well researched in my opinion and I really did feel that the time period in which the book is set truly came alive while I was reading. The novel is set in the British colony of Malaya (Malaysia) in the 1930s. And I must mention that it was very interesting to read about Chinese folklore as I have absolutely no knowledge about that subject.

But sadly, despite the majestic prose and fascinating subject matter I could not really get into this book.

I think the fault in this instance is mine as I was just not the right reader and therefore I think that for the right kind of reader this novel would be utterly compelling. I do think fans of richly detailed historical fiction with an appreciation for magical realism and mythology will enjoy The Night Tiger, and would recommend it as such.

My Socials 

6 thoughts on “The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo – Book Review

  1. wonderful reading your thoughts on this one Éimhear & I can completely get certain content taking you out of the story!! I’d love to dive into more historical fiction, but I do get intimidated by the page length and pacing, I would probably pick this one up because I love reading magical realism.

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  2. Great review, Éimhear! I’ve had this book on my TBR for… A really long time now but I keep hesitating whenever I think about picking it up because I’m worried that either I won’t enjoy it or it’ll just go way over my head, especially since I’m not always great at getting books that have a lot of magical realism.

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    1. Thanks Dini. This is such a popular read with so many fans so maybe you’ll love it too. I just feel like maybe I was too tired when I read it and hence the magical realism vibe just didn’t flow as it should. I always find it to be a tricky genre to get to grips with.

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      1. I totally get that though. My brain has been pooped lately and I’ve been finding it tough to focus on more ‘complex’ reads this year especially. I think I’ll still give it a try but I probs will have to be in the right mood for it! Magical realism really is tricksy 😂

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