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Mar 19, 2012

The Bondmaid by Catherine Lim: Book Review

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  6:51 AM

Author:    Cathrin Lim

Series:    (N)
Genre:      Romance, Literary Fiction, 
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (December 1, 1998)

Set in Singapore in the fifties, the novel focuses on the story of Han. Sold as a slave into the House of Wu at the age of four, she forms a close bond with the heir of the household, but the idyllic childhood soon turns into a life of struggling against tradition and tyranny.

  • Han  - as a little girl Han is ripped from the solitude of her impoverished but close family and is sold into slavery as a bondmaid in the House of Wu. From here we follow her journey from childhood into adulthood.
  • Young Master Wu – This very spoilt five year old heir is the first person that shows kindness towards the abandoned and distressed young Han and the bond forged between them at this time would last throughout their lives. 
  • Sky God – He features heavily everywhere as an incompetent and cruel god. But he reflects the Chinese deeply entrenched belief system  into the spiritual world.
  • The Forgetful Goddess _ She becomes a very prominent figure in the development of the ill  fated love affair between Wu  and Han.
    • Firstly let me make a brief comment about the writing style and that is that Lim has  incredibly vivid prose.  She intermittently scatteres sexy English words like :lugubrious sensuousness"some of which I admit I had to bookmark for later Google-ing. It’s not to say I am impressed by hyper convoluted words but she uses them so well and strategically that when I came across them I felt if a description has to be given more substance. It became rich velvet instead of cheap see through cotton. She’s so good at it. OK That was not so brief.
    • This is such an extraordinary story.  It’s a love story but has more than its share of suspense, drama and intrigue. Everyday life in the house of Wu is captivating and  the writer did such a fantastic job in creating and developing each character that I must say I loved them all. Good and bad, if you know what I mean. 
    • The detail of the backdrop is complex and yet easy for the reader to follow. Its rich detail about culture, social divides, superstitions, etc, make this novel a hard one to put down and has such impact you can’t forget the people in it. 
    • I enjoyed every aspect from the crude relationships in the House Of Wu,  the mishaps and misfortunes that befall the characters despite the tears that came with reading them;  to the happy moments of minute and sometimes monumental victories experienced by the main character or those closest to her. I found her strong, loving, not only intelligent but crafty which in this case was an invaluable trait if she was to survive the alliances formed against her. She was a very wilful child and young adult for a bondmaid.
    • I wish the Young Master Wu had more backbone so that the greatest of love tragedies could have been avoided in the end but the gods had not meant for it to be so. 
    • The ending nearly killed me it was so intense but.......I am at peace with it.
      • The repetitive use of some words such as filial or filial piety. I found this term in particular overused but cannot think of any others. So I was happy to ignore it for the most part.
      • The ending felt more rushed and I wished it could have followed the leisurely pace of the first and second sections.
      I’m not a great fan of eastern novels because most of those I’ve come across  usually have story lines  oriented towards underworld crime and gangs etc which doesn’t really interest me.  In fact the last time I read a book that had a lasting impact on me from the East was 18 years ago in my senior years of high school and it was titled Saigon Child. 
      Cathrine Lee’s Bondmaid is a fantastic book that is sure to leave you wanting more. It has darker elements of sexual depravity, molestation and child slavery but these I assure you will not put you off. The sexually content is for example....non-sexual. Kind of like how Toni Morrison writes about love and relationships in a slave period but the book is not about slavery.
      I can’t wait to read her next book  “The Teardrop Story Woman” to see if this quality of writing is indeed her trademark.

      Rating: 5
      This book isAbsolutely Magnificent. It Blew Me Away.
      • If you interested in reading more of my reviews click HERE
      • I bought this book in an animal shelter Charity shop its the best $0.70c I ever spent.

      About the Author

      Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...


      1. Sounds like a very interesting read. And yes. Filial piety comes up a lot in Chinese tradition. They actually have a special word for it in Mandarin. :-)

      2. This book is on my TBR list. Thanks for championing it.

      3. Great review! I actually like books/stories set in the East. I just might pick this one up. :)

      4. Wendy, this one sounds like a must read for me. I enjoy anything that has to do with the Orient. Thanks!

      5. I think I,ve been looking at the wrong genres from the orient. I now realize that perhaps I should look our for romance, family saga, historical, etc. Perhaps you guys can suggest a few.

      6. I'm so into writing (techniques) and your review makes me want the book.


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