The Con­cu­bine’s Child

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN - by Carol Jones, HarperCollins

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.

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