Book Table

Here are the published books by the Victorians. You can browse through the books listing and you may directly purchase some of the books here too (if you have a Amazon or Kindle account). Pick up a Victorian book while you are here.

Inquiries about listing your book here can be done by e-mail to Boon Kheng, ooibeekay@gmail.com.

Go to http://viweb.school/vihome.htm.

 

Marriage and Mutton Curry

Marriage and Mutton Curry

USD18.90/RM39.90

Review by Leon Wing

As a former student of Victoria Institution (or VI), a highly regarded secondary school, I am brought into familiar territory reading the first story of this collection. The title of it, “Victoria and her Kimono”, hints at a sort of hilarity only readers who might have read British humor of the Victorian era would appreciate. It brings to mind images of heavily powdered actors hamming it up on stage before an uproarious audience, with entertainment of the lewd kind.

I wasn’t disappointed even though there were no such Victorian lewdness. We are introduced to the type of VI teacher even I encountered during my own days in that school: bad tempered, liable to cane a student for any breach. This one speaks “Tamil in a nasal British accent”, according to wife Vikneswari or Victoria. Albert Ramanan is the Tiger of Victoria Institution, someone “fierce, to be approached with caution, if at all”, when the reader first encounters him slapping a boy. His students also nicknamed him Bill Sikes, from Oliver Twist.

Humor of this sort can devolve into caricature but luckily this one doesn’t. The hilarity sustains throughout, with quips like the boy he slapped owning to having a pet dog called Bill Sikes, and another boy calling himself Liew Fook Yew. And still more anecdotes in the same vein: in New York, Fook Yew’s uncle was asked by a waiter, “Wanna fork, sir?”
Even after the Japanese take over VI and banish anything British, the humor does not flounder, as it might from another less capable writer. Even when heads role—literally—as the Japanese enforce their rule over the community, our “royalty”, the Malayan version of Price Albert and Queen Victoria, keep their heads up, especially the queenly wife. She is the one who props up the family, creating meals out of the barest supplies, hiding Albert’s English books so that he doesn’t get dragged to the gallows.
But, of course, not all the stories continue in this vein. What is continued into the next story “Half and Half” is the same historical period, the Japanese invasion. The humor here is replaced with the trauma of beatings with bamboo poles, for looking white. The narrator is albino, who happens to look European. This stood him in good stead as early as preteen, when he gained entrance into a primary school Batu Road School (also this reviewer’s school) on the strength of his skin color. Growing up, he embraced the advantages his ailment offered him, allowing him to jump queue in department stores and restaurants. But his luck turns when the Japanese invade Malaya. He only manages to save himself being beaten to a pulp when he surprises his tormentor with the Japanese anthem. Not to spoil this story, it’s enough to say he has to make a choice thereafter.
“Birthday” deals with the sex of a newborn. Santha wishes and is sure it is a girl she is having. But cricket mad husband Gnanam doesn’t care so long as it is healthy. However the relatives are counting on a boy as they wait for the caesarean on Santha to be over. They speculate upon the future of the offspring. The humor is back, and the comedy of errors begins when the nurse wraps the baby girl in a blue towel. I defy any reader who doesn’t guffaw as he reaches the conclusion.

 

“Money Man” can be a bit of a conundrum at first when the tone is hard to place. Are we expecting another comedy? We have now moved on to the swinging 60s. The language is couched in a stiff and formal style as befits a “dignitary holding the purse strings to World Bank loans”. But despite this, the humor rears in a sentence like: “When I ask for a translation of certain words, I am told the Minister had spoken entirely in English.” Apparently he speaks too fast and mashes his words, a mistake his speech maker has made coining all these long words to impress, “to help the Minister brandish verbal prowess.” Like “antidisestablishmentarianism” and reading it aloud as “andelism”. As it turns out, the Minister is an ex VI boy, and he takes advantage of this by displaying his “sheer Englishness”. The comedy also on the narrator when he has difficulty with the local hot dishes—and with the government officials.

 

In “Rahman’s American Visitor”, the white narrator from before is on the receiving end of a western educated government official Rahman who imagines he is having the upper hand while he declaims over the sweating foreign official. And here we witness a hilarious miscommunication and the urgent repetition of the word “facilities” as understood by a foreign official and as interpreted by the local counterpart.

 

In “Seek and Shall Ye Find?” we get more of this governmental humor, this time from a Sikh officer, yet another ubiquitous VI boy, who is expecting a promotion. Funny though this piece is, there lurks a serious lesson about deception and honesty. I leave the reader to find out the outcome.

 

In this next story “Naming Names”, we find scores of Malayan Jaffna Tamils, all having the same name Kandiah. To distinguish one from the other Kandiah, they are given nicknames, like Take Care Kandiah, or Crow Pecked Kandiah. They get their one to few paragraphs of fame, recounting micro tales.

 

In “His Mother’s Joy” we happen to come upon another Kandiah, this time a female, a mother crowing with pride over her son Siva’s achievement at work, his prestigious appointment. We have met him in a few stories.

 

In “Barefoot Man From Malaya” Rasamah gets a marriage proposal from a man not from her neighborhood, a “barefoot man with pens in his pocket”, someone not a cousin nor related to her. Kandasamy defies tradition and protocol, bypassing parents and relatives, going straight to his target. Another shock to Rasamah: he doesn’t want any dowry. She warns him he has competition from a first cousin Retnam. But he dangles a carrot: she will be marrying a government clerk with a pension in faraway Malaya. She has to make a decision soon, before Kandasamy returns to Malaya. She tells her mother, who is shocked at the audacity of the man. She waits for a response from Retnam, but he relinquishes claims on her. He has asked her to wait for six years so that he can become a doctor first.

 

In “Marriage and Mutton Curry” Rasamah is in Malaya now, married to Kandasamy, seen earlier proposing in bare feet. But her new life in a new country hasn’t worked out as she would have liked: no teaching job, no overseas trips, not even permission to paint her house in a different color. Her only friend is an uneducated housewife who used to be live near her in Ceylon and whose husband beats her. But how will Rasamah handle her betrayal? Will Chelvi remain a good friend always? Shanmughalingam has wrought a touching and heart wrenching story which departs from the lightheartedness and humor of the previous tales. It displays his mettle in handling serious topics.

 

In “Dodol for the Doctor” we continue the story of Rasamah and her life in Malaya. She is much older now, but still lonely if not for her unbroken friendship with the once-betraying Chelvi, her downtrodden neighbor. She has given up her longing to be a teacher but settles for tutoring English to children. Her husband still works his fingers to the bone, and will be turning in his papers, a sad day for her. She is preparing a special treat, dodol, but not for the husband. She is celebrating an imminent proposal of marriage—to her daughter, Kamala, who plays the violin, from a doctor, something her own mother once wished for her. But one thing that never changes is Chelvi, and before the story closes we will know her true ways.

 

In “Flowers for KK” we are at the funeral of King Kana, and wife Indra doesn’t cry as many tears as sister Thangachi. There is sisterly rivalry and this is exacerbated when the younger sibling marries her husband because she couldn’t bear children. But when both sisters pray to Lord Ganesha, the unexpected ensued, and this tale becomes a little chilling towards the end.

 

“The Indra Quartet” continues this tale of two sisters of one husband. There are secrets that must be kept within the family, but cracks have appeared when the neighbor tells Indra of a rumor spreading around their community, which she has to squash by performing some ritual with limes. There is a load of drama and pathos worthy of a 60s Indian drama on black and white television.

 

In “Free and Freed”, yet another episode with Mrs Kandiah, aka Kaiser Kandiah, and Mrs Chelliah, or Chatterbox Chelliah, these aunties are looking after the morals and traditions of their community. They plan to catch a man at a local cinema daring to dally with one of their unmarried young women, a daughter of one Muthiah. They need to stop him from committing “K and C”, i.e., kiss and cuddle. You’ll enjoy the comedy of errors.

 

In “Rani Taxis Away” what adventures will a young woman Rani encounter on her first day as a temporary teacher in a local school? Inevitably Shanmughalingam has to slip in a final mention of Victoria Institution, even if it is merely its headmaster Dr Lewis of the first story and author of a Geography textbook. In this tale, we meet Mrs Kandiah once again, defender of community morals. She is not pleased to find Rani not chaperoned, and alone with taxi driver Chandran. She “rescues” Rani from the potential kidnapper, brings her home, blabs to her mother about her being seen with a strange man. We see a tug of war with traditions and the mores of the next generation of young Malayans. Patriarchy reigns in the community, and Rani is told to defer to the males in the family, her father and even to her fifteen-year old brother. This is something Rani will not brook because she is a “new Rani” now, who is capable of finding her own husband, and is enjoying her new independence. Her Amma tries to explain away Mrs Kandiah’s protective behavior over their community. Rani is torn between respecting her Amma and the ways of her community, and her own independence. As this is the last story, the ending augurs well for a new Malaya. Before the 60s ends its hip and groovy decade, the country will become Malaysia.

This is a collection of tales which will surely appeal to older generations of Malaysians who still remember the Japanese days and the heady 60s of Kuala Lumpur of rickshaws, government quarters, Scott Road, Rex and Lido Cinema, Robinsons department store, Bilal Restaurant, and Victoria Institution. It will delight and intrigue the present generation of readers with its nostalgia of the good old days the characters live in, those telling mentions of things still iconic to Malaysians to this day, like Boh tea, Milo, kueh, hibiscus, chilli padi.

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Growing up in British Malaya

Growing up in British Malaya

eBook: USD4.99
Author:
Series: Journey
Genre: Memoir

"The Western mind is liberal and the Chinese and Eastern, contemplative, and both cultures invite me into their infinitely rich and splendid worlds. From either garden, I can pick the most beautiful flowers….' and 'The fountain of wisdom is never dry and, from it, I drink the purest water to my heart’s content…'.

 

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Sweet Offerings

Sweet Offerings

USD14.09eBook: USD2.99

Customer reviews (amazon.co.uk):

I couldn't put down the book. Being a Malaysian of Chinese origin myself, I was curious to read this when it came up as one of the Recommended Books on my Amazon account, and I must say I wasn't disappointed. I finished the book on a return flight journey from Manchester - Athens!! It was like watching a movie playing in my head, as I turned the pages on my Kindle. I am going to order Ms Chan's next few books now. Highly recommended!!
- Soraya Y 16 August 2017

Sweet Offerings, Chan Ling Yap's recent novel about family life in Malaysia over the past half century was so real and vivid that it made me homesick for somewhere I had never lived! For the many thousands of people who lived there at some time, or who come from there it will be very much treasured. It reflects the tensions between the various racial groups, and between classes and sexes. Having read many novels about Chinese society there was much that was familiar about relationships, passions and loyalties. The innocent young girl, so transparent and well-meaning but sometimes rash and tactless. The essentially good and hard-working man who, like his father, finds it difficult to remain entirely faithful to one wife - or even two. And the intrigues of lovers, business partners, invading Japanese and colonial Britains - they all go into this complex but most entertaining book that is so well written and easy to read. Along the road of the story one learns much about the history of Malaysia and of tradition, customs, food and day to day life. Most enjoyable - and let's have another book from Chan Ling soon!
- G. Macpherson 31 December 2009

Chan Ling Yap's book covers a period and a region not known to many Europeans. By telling the personal, inter-connected stories of a group of Malaysians during a period from the 1930s up to the 1960s , she gives the reader a fascinating insight into Malaysian and Malaysian Chinese lives, as well as providing - in passing - a history of the country moving from British colony through Japanese occupation to independent nation. The tensions between both the individuals in the book and the changing circumstances in which they live are vividly described in this book, which is highly recommended.
- D. W. Nyman 3 August 2011

 

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Bitter-Sweet Harvest

Bitter-Sweet Harvest

USD18.99eBook: USD5.58

Customer reviews (amazon.co.uk):

Two young Oxford undergraduates, both from Malaysia: a Chinese girl and a Malay man, fall in love. Their romance works in UK but when they try to take it home both families make life as difficult as possible. From the beginning of the book, Chan Ling Yap sets a pace of action and excitement that she maintains for the full length of the book. Each chapter takes you, step by step - sometimes in the most surprising directions - building the story. It spans the globe from England to Malaysia, Italy to Singapore and in any of the places in which you find yourself you know you are there by the scenery, the language and especially the food. Chan Ling Yap is much less restrained than in her first book and there's a fizz of love, anger, violence, hate, envy and other emotions that bring the characters to life. The story has elements of religion, politics,science and medicine; plenty of international family and sharia law - all kinds of knowledge that Chan Ling has accrued during her distinguished career with the United Nations. I have recommended this book to my wife (who is fussy about such things!) and have bought another copy for a kind friend who proof-reads my own work. Rarely have I read a book so fast - it was hard to leave.
- G. Macpherson 17 March 2012

Following on from her successful earlier novel covering the inter-war and post-war years in what became Malaysia, Chan Ling Yap has posited her new novel in more recent times. Some of the characters from the earlier novel reappear as older parents to a younger generation studying in Oxford. The relationship between the star-crossed Malaysian couple, one a Muslim Malay and the other Chinese-Malaysian, are described in this fast-moving novel, where things go disastrously wrong once they return to Malaysia and traditional values begin to exert a sinister influence.

As with the first novel, there is a deft weaving of background historical (and culinary) detail which provides the reader with a greater understanding of the underlying political and social currents.
- D. W. Nyman 31 July 2012

I had already enjoyed reading Chan Ling Yap's first novel "Sweet Offerings" abd so was delighted to find that there was a sequel, "Bitter Sweet Harvest". I admit I knew very little about Malaysia before reading Chan Ling's books and what a revelation it has been. Chan Ling explores Malaysia's countryside,towns and cities as well as its history, politics, laws and traditions through the stories in both her novels. Her vivid descriptions fill the senses with the warmth and heat of Malaysia and the smells of spices and sweets and the scents of exotic flowers. In "Bitter Sweet Harvest" Chan Ling's writing makes us feel that we are part of the story of love, intrigue and tragedy surrounding a marriage of a young Malaysian couple, An Mei and Hussein, who meet as students in Oxford but on returning to Malaysia find that the old traditions and prejudices of their different cultural and religious backgrounds overwhelm their happiness. The story takes the reader on a roller coaster journey not only between England, Malaysia and Italy but also through the joys, heartaches and sorrows of An Mei, Hussein, their families and friends. Although "Bitter Sweet Harvest" can easily be read on its own, I enjoyed reading "Sweet Offerings" first as the second novel naturally follows on from the first. I highly recommend "Bitter Sweet Harvest" as a fascinating and most enjoyable book.
- A M Wall 23 October 2012
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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

USD18.99eBook: USD9.99

New Beginnings won first prize for Fiction (the Readers’ Popular Choice Award) in 2014 at the Book Festival in Malaysia.

Customer reviews (amazon.co.uk):

I am going on to read all the books by Chan Ling Yap, historical involving China, Malaya, immigrants, families and customs.
Shows a genuine well researched knowledge.
- vanwin 10 January 2018

Before reading Chan Ling's novels, my knowledge of the history of Malaysia was limited to a 1950's stamp collection with stamps from far away places called Malacca, Penang, Perak, Malay Settlements etc. and the Opium Way was restricted to a page in my O Level history book. Chan Ling's latest novel is a moving story which provides the background to the migration of Chinese workers to Malaysia and the involvement of all parties in the opium trade. A fascinating book, complementing Chan Ling's first two novels. I look forward to her next book and to learning more about this intriguing and interesting part of the world.
- A M Wall 10 June 2014
Have enjoyed one of her other books, but found this rather boring. Found myself racing through it, just to get to the end.
- Lisa S 28 June 2016
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A Flash of Water

A Flash of Water

USD18.49eBook: USD15.99

Customer reviews (amazon.co.uk):

I have just read 'Flash of Water' for a book club meeting.
I really started to become interetsed in the book when three of the main characters left China and arrived in Kuala Lumpar and the plot started to develop around the family dynamics and day to day life.
Having to follow certain social etiquette, meant that communication between the characters led to interesting sub plots and made the story line edgy and hard to put down!
The story line was always peppered with interesting historical fact from the era.
Chan Ling Yap is a serious writer with a lot of knowledge about her subject, I am motivated to read more of her work and would highly recommend her books.
- Amazon Customer 17 April 2016

An excellent read. Having read Chan Ling's previous three novels, I was looking forward to reading her fourth and final book in the series and was delighted not to be disappointed. Set in the background of the dramatic events occurring in China and Malaya at the turn of the twentieth century, the fascinating story of the relationships between the characters from different religions and cultures are sensitively drawn and developed. Although the series has now been completed, I hope that in the future we will see more novels from the pen of Chan Ling Yap.
- A M Wall 28 August 2017

Good read, good value --- Thanks!
- Sapspec 5 July 2018

 

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Where the Sunrise is Red

Where the Sunrise is Red

USD12.78eBook: USD15.99

Customer reviews (amazon.co.uk):

I think I would term this book as more of a romance, which is not what I would usually go for, but I found it very gripping like an adventure and it provided twists right to the end. I particularly enjoyed the historical nature throughout, which taught me a lot, and could only be written by someone with intimate knowledge of the area, history and the era.
- Roger Francis 24 April 2018

A really good read. A fast-moving novel set against the backdrop of the last years of British rule in Malaysia. The story of a young English women, Ruth, and her tangled loves and tragedies, is intricately woven into the development of her close friendship with a Chinese girl, May. Full of intrigue and beautifully written in Chan Ling's lyrical, flowing style, this is a real page-turner keeping you in suspense until the very last paragraphs.
- A M Wall 19 February 2018

Like her previous books a very enjoyable read, particularly interesting as I had no knowledge of the Malaysian history at that time which is important to much of the action of the story. The characters are interesting and believable.
- Roger Mills 23 May 2018

 

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The V.I. Anthology – Voices from the Golden Age
V.I. Tales

V.I. Tales

USD31 / USD23

The mighty V.I. cricket team bundled out for ten runs?
Using sulphuric acid to clean brass hinges?
200-pounder George Abraham doing the cross-country run?
The fart that robbed the V.I. boys of a holiday?
Drama Society costume discovered stolen on opening night?
Squeezing 1,000 D.C. lines on an A4 sheet of paper?
Lim Eng Thye’s morning snack hijacked by his pupils?
A suspected Communist plot to take over the school?
The Prefects’ secret plan to resign en masse?
The Special Branch vetting a Speech Day concert item?
Prefect nabbing a teacher for not wearing his badge?

Yes, they happened! These and hundreds more accounts by alumni, teachers and headmasters of the Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are in this riveting collection of “tales” by V.I. Old Boy and archivist Chung Chee Min. Mined from many sources and classified under forty-two categories, these personal writings capture the spirit and pace of life in the premier school in Malaya/Malaysia during the period from its founding in 1893 to the mid-1970s. The forty-third category is a collection of truly, truly, tall tales - first published in the 1950s and 1960s - of the adventures of a fictional fat V.I. boy.

 

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Dream Stuff
Victoria Institution, the first century, 1893-1993
Echoes of silence

Echoes of silence

USD25.00

'In March 1970, as a direct result of the May 1969 racial riots, I left Malaysia.' Thus begins the story of Lim Ai Lian, a Chinese Malaysian. In Germany she meets and falls in love with Michael Templeton, an Englishman born and brought up in the district of Ulu Banir, where his father, Jonathan Templeton, now a Malaysian citizen, owns a plantation. In late 1973, Ai Lian returns home to be with her sick and dying father. The following February she pays the Templetons a long delayed visit. On the day of her arrival a murder takes place and Ai Lian is soon involved in trying to find the murderer. In the process she finds herself learning about racial prejudice, truth and deception, guilt and innocence, womanhood, love, and the way past silences echo into the present.

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