TITLE: Under Fishbone Clouds
AUTHOR: Sam Meekings
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Asian Literature, Romance
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
When the Kitchen God is challenged by the Jade Emperor to fathom the workings of the human heart, he chooses to follow the life of Jinyi and his wife Yuying, from their blossoming love until their old age, in hope of finding an answer. The Kitchen God watches as the new government strictures split their family in two, living inside their hearts as they they endure the loss of two children, homesickness, and isolation, all while keeping alive a love that survives famine, forced labor, and even death. Weaving together the story of their life with China’s recent political history, as well as traditional folktales and myths, the Kitchen God illuminates the most impenetrable aspects the human condition.
What I Liked:
- Meekings writes very well. I was captivated by his realistic portrayal of China over the last century, as well as his wonderful re-tellings of ancient legends and myths. He did a good job of breaking up the story, while managing to keep me interested in what would happen next. There were a lot of beautiful quotes in this book too!
- The narrator that Meekings chose, the Kitchen God, was very likeable indeed! I'm a big fan of the use of narrators (as long as it is done well) and this book was certainly no exception. He had a sense of humour and an ironic outlook on the plot which I enjoyed reading. I also liked getting to hear his story, and his thoughts on the Celestial Kingdom as well as the the realm of mortals.
What I Disliked:
- I felt a little confused at times. The book jumps around in time and viewpoint quite a lot, and so I forgot characters that existed frequently. I found it quite hard to get my head around the number of names that were being thrown at me, especially as they were all similar.
- The main couple were nice to read, but I didn't get as attached to them and their plight as I would have liked to. They went through quite a lot as the book progressed and their relationship was tested in many ways by the political happenings around them. Yet, as their tragic tale progressed, I didn't find myself getting as upset as I thought I would.
A really great story, with a well-researched plot and likeable characters. The narrator was fantastic and the story was gripping, full of twists that threw it in a completely different direction to what I was expecting. Though the writing style was beautiful, I wish that I had become a little more attached to the main characters within the story. The plot became confusing at times and I sometimes muddled characters up. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt too, though this was only a minor niggle. It was an enjoyable read however, well worth a look for those who like Asian Literature.