Little Hut of Leaping Fishes

Written by Chiew-Siah Tei
Review by Mike Ashworth

This is the story of Minghzi, the first grandson of Master Chai, a feudal landlord and opium farmer who is determined that Minghzi will join China’s bureaucratic elite who sit in judgement on and control the lives of the peasantry. Minghzi seizes his opportunities to get away from the confines and the corruption which pervade the family mansion. As he gains advancement, he makes his own small stand against the corruption and injustice that is endemic throughout China. But this is the time of change, and Western countries are seeking to exploit China for their own benefit. Cultures clash and Minghzi finds himself embroiled in a dangerous game of family and social politics played out against the backlash against the West.

The book has a tempo of its own. This is a gentle, slow-burning read which draws you into the world of China in the late 19th century. The main characters in the novel slowly evolve rather than spring out fully formed in the first chapters, and the sights and sounds and way of life draw you into a fascinating world. Sit down with a large cup of coffee and enjoy. Recommended.