Review of C Fong Hsiung’s Picture Bride (Book review)

photo of C Fong Hsiung's book
Picture Bride and New Land Same Sky – written by C Fong Hsiung

Picture Bride

Picture Bride is C Fong Hsiung’s first book. She recently launched her second, New Land Same Sky. I had the pleasure of attending Fong’s second book launch and listening to her speak about her writing experience. It was also wonderful to listen to a powerful reading of a few excerpts from her book, New Land Same Sky.

If you read my post titled “Interview with C Fong Hsiung” you would know that like many of us out there, we work full-time jobs unrelated to book writing. She is an accountant and I am a law clerk. But through our passion for writing, we can express ourselves and tell stories for all to enjoy and experience.

Picture Bride: Story line

A young Hakka (Chinese-Indian) woman named Jie-Lan is forced by her parents to marry someone through an arranged marriage. She travels all the way from Calcutta, India to Toronto, Canada to be with Peter Chou. But when she arrives in Canada, she is greeted with hostility and indifference from her husband-to-be, which shocks her and makes her want to cry. She is naive to expect that her new husband would want to make love to her after their marriage. Yet she tries to be adaptable. She tries to engage Peter in conversation but he always scoffs her off. She decides to find work in Toronto and make the most of her new life. One day she feels sick and goes home early. Everything becomes clear to her when she walks in on her husband and his male ‘friend’ in his bed.

She wants so badly to end her marriage – but it’s not so easy with tradition and shame that would be brought to her family. Yet how can she continue to endure her marriage? Would falling in love with a fankwei (a white man) be her destiny? Find out when you read Picture Bride. Check out her website to find out where to buy her books.

Here are my comments:

Having never been to India – I enjoyed having a snapshot of life in Calcutta. Leather tanning being the way of life. The wealthier families owned factories, while the poorer locals often tried to break into the factories to steal money. Arranged marriages, which were (and probably still are) popular in Indian culture brought two people together, initially without love. But can love grow from this type of relationship? Maybe. I would like to hold onto that hope.

In Picture Bride, Jie-Lan is a heroine as she endures so much for her want to be loved and cared for. She leaves her country with an open mind for an unknown life and fights bravely against the man called her husband when he threatens to have her sent back to India if anyone finds out he is gay.

There is an underlying story of Jie-Lan’s sister who died after being discovered dating a non-Hakka. There is a great reveal near the end of the book. A family dynamic unique to each family. I didn’t think Fong could wrap it up with just a few pages left – but she did!

I felt very satisfied when I put down Picture Bride. Will work on reading New Land Same Sky next after I finish up the book I am reading now.

My favourite line

My favourite line of her book which is about arranged marriages:

“Too young to choose my own husband, but old enough to marry.” It so nicely summarizes contradictions in life in general.

In this thing called life – reading is one of the greatest joys. I love to read. We can go on an adventure or emotional roller coaster without physically going anywhere.

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