The #TFBookClub reads ‘The Night Tiger’ set in colonial Malaya

11th March 2020

Thank you for joining us as we read The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, set in colonial MALAYA (March/April 2020).

The Night TigerWe hope you enjoy reading this captivating page-turner, set in colonial 1930s Malaya ….

We will be chatting about the book throughout March and April 2020, so if you are reading it with us, please come and join the dialogue!

The #TFBookClub is your book club – we are here to help you discover new titles that will transport you to interesting locations via top literature for some exceptional #literarywanderlust.

As you read, please come and chat and share your thoughts in several ways:

  • Here on our dedicated blogpost, leave your thoughts in the Comments section below
  • On TWITTER using #TFBookClub
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  • And once you’ve turned the final page, we’d love it if you could write your own review, which you can do on using the Add A Review tab. Help us to build the #TFBookClub and the TripFiction website!


Andrew and Tina for the TripFiction Team

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  1. User: Sara Hill

    Posted on: 27/03/2020 at 6:35 pm

    A wonderful book! I have had plenty of time to read it and stayed in bed late on several mornings as I couldn’t put it down.
    The main characters Ren and Ji Lin were very likeable and I loved the way their stories intertwined. Fascinating to learn of the Chinese superstitions and about shape shifting.


  2. User: Andrea Hedgcock

    Posted on: 25/03/2020 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve started this but really not getting into it. Maybe because of everything that’s going on in the world I need a different type of read. May try again later. Thanks for the copy – very unusual for me not to get into a book.


  3. User: Rachel Hall

    Posted on: 22/03/2020 at 12:08 pm

    I posted my review on Goodreads and Amazon, apologies as it is a bit long. I am glad that I wasn’t the only one disturbed by the romance Lapsapchung!

    An immersive romp through colonial 1930s Malaya filled with Chinese lore & superstition.

    The Night Tiger is an expansive historical crime and romance story set in a vividly described colonial Malaya (present-day Malaysia) in 1931 where a thriving British expat community live alongside natives and a culture heavily steeped in folklore, superstition and long-held beliefs about what happens to a person’s spirit after they die.

    Eleven-year-old houseboy and orphan Ren, watches his master, Dr MacFarlane, succumb to malaria and is left with one final request to fulfil his duty and honour a man he both admired and loved. For Dr MacFarlane was missing a finger, amputated after a hunting accident, and wants Ren to find his finger and bury it in his grave before the forty-nine days of the soul are over and finally allow him to rest in peace. But prior to his death Dr MacFarlane had confessed to several murders believed to be the work of a man-eating tiger (were-tiger) and although his confessions were discounted by the police due to his diminished mental capacity, this weighs heavy on Ren’s mind. Left in the doctors will as a bequest to British surgeon, William Acton, highly able but callow Ren is faced with locating the missing finger and working for a troubled man with his own demons and a personal tragedy in his past.

    Meanwhile in Ipoh, Ji Lin has had to set aside her cherished ambition to be a doctor and been apprenticed to a dressmaker as her stepfather decreed. Unbeknownst to her family she is also moonlighting in a dance hall to pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts. Frustrated at her stepbrother, Shin, having escaping the family home to study at medical school she has been left bitterly disappointed that despite higher grades, her gender has dictated her future. When a fumbling dance with a salesman at her place of work leaves Ji Lin in possession of a specimen tube containing the top two joints of a severed finger she is ceased by a desire to reunite it to its rightful owner. Discovering that her dance party dropped dead the very next day she fears the curse of bad luck and aided by her stepbrother she redoubles her efforts and thrown together, it provides an opportunity for Ji Lin and Shin to finally confront their true feelings for each other.

    A dual narrative follows with Ji Lin’s part in the first person and that of Ren in the third, and with the severed finger in common they eventually converge in the intoxicating surroundings of the Kinta valley. Despite being thoroughly immersed by the first third of the story I struggled to keep the multiple sub-plots distinct, something which was not helped by a storyline that veers between threads without actually establishing much for quite a significant part of the novel. From the Confucian virtues and superstitions surrounding Chinese numbers, to the many dream sequences which blur the line between what is real and what is imaginary and Ren’s sixth-sense, there is an overwhelming number of things to keep track of. Most of Ren’s deduction are based on his cat-sense and intuition and in a crime novel there is only so much of that gut instinct that a reader can swallow before tiring of the device.

    So much of how the characters actually respond to events is dictated by their beliefs and on several occasions I found myself mystified at their behaviour in the face of very convincing evidence to the contrary. Overall I found the story lacked cohesion and the direct path between the two narratives was muddied by incidental and unnecessary information that confused matters no end. In addition some of the secondary characters (Lydia and Koh Beng) are vaguely portrayed and add nothing to the story until they suddenly emerge from the background to become of fundamental importance.

    I expecting to be charmed by the romance element of the novel but when I realised this was between two step-siblings who had lived alongside each other from the age of ten it drastically lessened the appeal. Furthermore Shin is very pushy with Ji Lin and pressurises her, and from Ji Lin being portrayed as a smart, independent and no-nonsense young woman at the start of the novel to going weak at the knees, it made for disappointing character development. Their relationship highlights the gender inequality of the era and the cultural belief that a man was responsible for his wife.

    The denouement was wrapped up far too quickly and some specifics of the story disappointingly still remain a mystery to me, however I did enjoy much of the novel and the Malaya backdrop is intoxicatingly brought to life. The novel also served as an informative introduction to Chinese mythology, folklore and long-standing superstitions and as a reader who would normally steer clear of magical realism I am glad to have read a fascinating story.


  4. User: lapsapchung

    Posted on: 21/03/2020 at 9:55 am

    This book was bound to appeal to me. My husband was born in Batu Gajah General Hospital and raised in Ipoh, and together we lived in Hong Kong for several years where I was fascinated by the Chinese superstitions that seemed to influence so many aspects of their lives.

    Both the area of Malaysia and the Chinese superstitions are brought together beautifully in this vivid, beautifully written book. The contrast between and overlapping of the Malay, Chinese and European cultures are sensitively handled and the food descriptions – oh, the food descriptions! – I’ll just say that beef rending is going to be on the menu here some time very, very soon.

    Ren and Yin are twins, now separated by the death of Yin, without whom Ren feels incomplete. Ji and Shin were also born on the same day but are not twins as they are step-siblings. Together their names form four of the Confucian Virtues, needing only Li to complete the set, and throughout the book the characters, living and dead, are drawn closer together, even appearing in each others’ dreams.

    Throughout the book the real world, the dream world, the realities of everyday life and the powerful belief in luck and fate are drawn together beautifully, and setting is perfectly described in terms of period and place. I was rather worried that the body count was getting a bit high towards the end of the book, and rather disturbed by the relationship between Ji and Shin, although I think that was necessary to the story, but despite these reservations I loved the book.


    1 Comment

    • User: Rachel Hall

      Posted on: 22/03/2020 at 12:10 pm

      Agree on the relationship being a bit disturbing and Shin is so pushy and forceful. Hardly a good advertisement for a girl who begun the novel as a non-nonsense, smart and determined young woman.


  5. User: Harriet Steel

    Posted on: 20/03/2020 at 11:56 pm

    Many thanks for my copy which arrived a couple of days ago. I’m looking forward to starting it just as soon as I finish Lonesome Dove. (Highly recommended if you want an epic read.)


  6. User: lapsapchung

    Posted on: 17/03/2020 at 10:37 am

    My copy arrived at the weekend and I’m loving it so far. Ipoh is where my husband was brought up and Batu Gajah where he was born, so although I’ve never visited either place I already feel familiar with them. The characters are superb and the whole book is really engaging. Hope it continues like this!


  7. User: Janine Phillips

    Posted on: 20/02/2020 at 3:33 pm

    I’d love a copy please x


  8. User: Julie ryan

    Posted on: 20/02/2020 at 2:34 pm

    Look forward to reading this. Magical place and some wonderful memories.