When An Mei fell in love with Hussein, she could not have foreseen the tragic events that were to follow. Set in a Malaysia emerging from the outbreak of racial conflict in 1969, Bitter-Sweet Harvest tells of the difficulties and tensions involved in a marriage between a Malay Muslim and a Chinese Christian. Atmospheric, dramatic, action-packed and intriguing, this is a spell-binding journey through contrasting cultures: from the learned spires of Oxford in England to the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia; from vibrant Singapore to Catholic Rome and developing Indonesia. Bitter-Sweet Harvest is the sequel to the novel Sweet Offerings. The stories can be read in any order and are complete in themselves.
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