Newsbrief 80 (Newsletter of FFOA, Rome, Italy)
Chan Ling Yap’s first novel…is an ambitious one, populated by intriguing characters, brought vividly to life. She captures the mix of traditions that exists even now in Malaysia. You get a good sense of the gap between rich and poor as well as the diversity of religions in the country. Set in the period from the late 1930s to 1960s, Sweet Offerings is a Chinese family saga across three generations and covering a formative period in the history of Malaysia. It tells the story of Mei Yin, a young Chinese girl from an impoverished rural family, sent to Kuala Lumpur to become the ward and companion of a tyrannical and bitter woman, and her life as she grows up and has a family of her own. The story is not told as a continuous narrative presented from a single perspective but as seen by each of the main characters. Those who do not know this part of the world will certainly learn a lot about life there while those who do know it are sure to enjoy the memories that the book will evoke.
Choose and Book (UK)
This book is full of Malaysian flavour in the way it is written, the evocation of place and time, the ambience, the insight into its racial and cultural ties, descriptions of places and scenes, the languages (multilingualism) and the indigenous food that induces hunger pangs and curiosity. A very down-to-earth book with down-to-earth characters whom you cannot help but be drawn to. It has certainly been an absorbing and enjoyable read.
The Star (National newspaper and Lifestyle magazine, Malaysia)
As a girl, Mei Yen carries a basket of sweet delicacies to sell on the way to school every morning.
This story is set in the mid-1900s where a young Chinese girl finds her life unravelling as she is sent to Kuala Lumpur for an arranged marriage.
There, she learns to cope with not only her new surroundings but the country’s political and cultural changes. The many trials and tribulations Mei Yen endures are all part of her journey to finding self-esteem and independence.
Her World Magazine (Malaysia)
The key to a good marriage is trust and a willingness to share – it works when partners accommodate each other. But what happens when one seems never to be satisfied?
This is the basis for Sweet Offerings which touches on a polygamous marriage set in old Malaya. The emotions and turmoil affecting not just the title character but all members of the family are carefully set out. Sweet Offerings is a narration of a family saga which seems fairly familiar in one way or another.
For someone who has worked almost her whole life, Chan Ling knows and understands that there is nothing more important than family and leading a happy life. “I have always believed that women can successfully combine work with family life. Women, like men, need to be stimulated and to interact with people to perform better within the family,” she says.
Her extensive portfolios include working under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and being a fitness instructor currently. “I do not feel that there is a need to trade off family life for work. What it requires is a lot of effort and organisation,” she explains from her home in the UK.
Review in Amazon.com by Vimala Sarma (Australia)
Chan Ling Yap’s novel about a Chinese family spanning three generations evoke all the imagery of Malaysian life from the period before the second world war to the Emergency, Merdeka, and the present day. It was a time when wealthy Chinese men took on other ‘wives’, sometimes ill-treating them, but often a strong bond with a strict hierarchy grew between the wives. The story of Mei Yin is told with much sympathy ad insight… Her lessons in life include accepting a caring co-wife, dealing with an unfaithful husband, aborting an unwelcome pregnancy, being the subject of malicious rumours and being supplanted by a conniving gold-digger, but finally finding independence and self-esteem.
A sweeping turbulent family saga which begins in Malaysia during WW2 – a country teeming with political upheaval and cultural changes.The dramatic personal stories of Mei Yin and Nelly, first and second wife to the same man, are the best reasons for giving this book a go – not forgetting the mother-in-law from hell.