The Concubine’s Child
Former English teacher Carol Jones has written more than 30 children’s books, but this is her first novel for adults – and it’s a haunting story. Spread over four generations, it traces a family curse that originates in 1930s Malaya and into the present day. In the 1930s in Kuala Lumpur, illiterate apothecary’s daughter Yu Lan is 16 and in love with local boy Ming, whose father runs a busy coffee house. Sadly for her, her lazy father is more interested in gambling than selling herbal remedies, so when wealthy tin owner’s wife Madame Chan spies the tall, healthy teenager and presents Yu Lan’s dad with a proposition, the young girl’s hopes for the future change. Childless and scheming, the older woman wants her to become her husband’s secondary wife, a concubine that will bear her husband the sons she is unable to – it’s a situation beyond Yu Lan’s control, as girl children have no voice in her home. Sold like a farm animal, which includes a dental inspection, Yu Lan is taken to the Chan household to become essentially a sex slave. But although her “husband” has bought her body, he is unable to touch her heart, and her quiet rage against her circumstances will have a horrific impact on the Chan clan and its progeny. Such a sad and poignant story, the writer sheds a sympathetic light into the lives of the forgotten “know-nothing” Asian women whose lives were bought and sold by men like commodities.