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Romance set in 1950s Singapore.
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Romance set in 1950s Singapore.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Having frightened off Singaporean publishers with its frank treatment of child slavery there during the 1950s, the first of popular novelist Lim's books to be published in the U.S. recounts the dramatic love story of privileged Master Wu and strong-willed peasant girl Han. Sold at the age of four as a bonded servant to the powerful House of Wu, Han flouts social mores by becoming a playmate of the family's heir-apparent. In a household rife with dirty laundry and sexual abuse, the children are inevitably forced apart as they grow older, but the defiant Han refuses to let their love die. Lim creates a rich picture of Singaporean life behind the scenes: gods, goddesses and ancestors play a significant role in the couple's fate; plots develop between servants, masters and religious figures; crazy villagers and lost family members make unpredictable appearances; and Han finally faces the biggest threat yet to her love for Master Wuhis more suitable betrothed, Li-Li of the House of Chang. Despite simple characterizations and an occasionally stiff translation, readers will probably be less shocked by the subject matter and more intrigued by the tale itselfnot to mention its exotic trappings. Oct.
Library Journal
Lim published this novelher tenth work of fictionbecause publishers in her native Singapore found it too controversial; child slavery and sexual predation are among its themes. Underlying those, however, is a sort of reverse Wuthering Heights love story. The heir to the magnificent House of Wu enjoys a loving and joyful friendship with the beautiful Han, sold to his family at age four. For years they are virtually inseparable. Then Wu is forced to see Han as only a bondmaida lowly creature indeed in that highly stratified and sexist society. The writing is infelicitous, but the plot moves right along. The story ends in tragedy, as such stories must. An interesting addition to Asian studies collections that fully conveys the superstition and cruelty that permeated 1950s Singapore.Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
A popular Singapore writer makes her American debut with a maudlin take on doomed love between master and slave.

It's a supposedly shocking story—with its revelation that slavery was still practiced in 1950s Singapore—but, in fact, the shock is muted in a tale that has little modern resonance: Except for brief mentions of automobiles, the setting could be any time in Chinese history. The lack of concrete detail, the character's cozy chats with gods, and the prophetic dreams punctuating the narrative also make it seem more a sentimental melodrama than a searing indictment of hidden viciousness. When Han turns four, her hard- pressed pregnant mother sells her to the rich House of Wu. Han is to be a bondmaid, one of the enslaved women who clean and who must endure the lascivious attentions of visiting priests as well as male family members. Little Han is so upset by the sale that she becomes extremely ill, or, as the household sees it, possessed by demons that have to exorcised. When she recovers, she attaches herself to young Master Wu, the six-year-old grandson of the Matriarch and Patriarch. The children become friends and secret playmates. Meanwhile, the older bondmaids, jealous of Han's emerging beauty and spirit, plot her downfall. Finally, young Wu goes away to school, coming back only to marry the daughter of the House of Chang. Han, though, has never forgotten him. Eventually, the two become lovers, but when they're discovered, Han, now pregnant, is forced to leave. She gives birth to a son, who's taken from her and replaced with the baby girl Wu's wife has just borne. As storm clouds gather, Wu embraces the dying Han; following her death, the narrative suggests, she becomes a goddess, one who "always saw and heard with compassion"—except in matters concerning the Wu and Chang Houses.

Pulp fiction with an exotic gloss.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789814346207
  • Publisher: Cavendish, Marshall Corporation
  • Publication date: 8/28/2011

Meet the Author

Frequently referred to as the doyenne of Singapore's literary circles, Catherine Lim is internationally recognised as one of the leading figures in the world of Asian fiction. The prolific Lim has penned more than 19 books across various genres short stories, novels, reflective prose, poems and satirical pieces. Lim has won several national and regional book prizes for her literary contributions and was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Literature by Murdoch University, Australia and a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Information. Many of Lim s works are studied in local and foreign schools and universities and have been published in various languages in several countries. Besides writing, Lim guest lectures at local and international seminars, conferences, arts/writing festivals and cruise ships worldwide. She has also appeared on radio and television programmes in Singapore, Europe and Australia.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2001

    this book is great

    catherine lim's the bondmaid is an exceptional book. u should read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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