- Book: When the Future Comes Too Soon
- Location: Ipoh
- Author: Selina Siak Chin Yoke
There is much more written about the effect of WW2 on Europe, the States, and perhaps from an English perspective about the effect on Singapore, so it was very interesting to read a little more about the Japanese invasion of Malaysia through the eyes of Mei Foong, her husband Weng Yu and her family. The Malaysian peninsula endured so much more than being a simple route to Singapore from Japan, which the Japanese, as is well known, navigated on bicycles to get south.
The story starts in 1942, the Japanese Imperial Year of 2602, with the Japanese invasion of Malaya, as it was called then. It is a story of family and fear and how gradually the Malayan culture became subsumed by the Japanese – or as this author calls them, the “Japs” – as they beavered away to impose Japanese culture and mores on an unwilling populace, riding roughshod over the largely acquiescent people. Traitors’ heads were spiked above the market as a warning to others, the local currency had to be traded for Japanese Dollars on a one to one ratio, inflation was rampant, and all the while the people were being edged towards blind obedience to the Japanese Emperor.
Food, locale and culture are all central to the narrative, and observations from the era often feel really pertinent. The family’s lifeline for news – and of the British departure as the Japanese invade – was their Philco wireless set, which they soon had to give up. There is good detail in many aspects. In fact the book is written as one would imagine language to have been spoken at the time, BBC English, formal and slightly clipped, and although this is perhaps era correct, it can leave the prose feeling a little wooden and impersonal. I struggled to hear the individual voice of the author, and phrases such: “She had caught my interaction … and took in my fluster” lent the narrative at times an old-fashioned edge.
Overall a read that will expose the terrible times in Malaya in World War II, a read that is at times as colourful as it is visceral.