Welcome to my stop on the Song blog tour! Huge thanks to Random Things Tours for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: 31/08/2021
Length: 464 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction
CW: Racism, sexual assault, torture, murder
Song is just a boy when he sets out from Lishui village in China. Brimming with courage and ambition, he leaves behind his family, hoping he’ll make his fortune and return home. Chasing tales of sugarcane, rubber, and gold, Song embarks upon a perilous voyage across the oceans to the British colony of Guiana, but once there he discovers riches are not so easy to come by and he is forced into labouring as an indentured plantation worker.GoodReads
This is only the beginning of Song’s remarkable life, but as he finds himself between places and between peoples, and increasingly aware that the circumstances of birth carry more weight than accomplishments or good deeds, Song fears he may live as an outsider forever.
From the very first chapter I adored Song. My heart was breaking for him and his family; I was desperate to read on to see if things would work out for him. We see Song grow up and go through many harrowing experiences; witnessing this and Song’s bravery and determination endears you to him even more which I didn’t think was possible. However, don’t get me wrong, there were many moments where I questioned Song’s decisions or was surprised by his actions. But that just made me love him more – it was clear how all of his experiences had impacted him and it was nice to see them acknowledged and not forgotten.
The same can be said for a lot of the additional characters in the novel too. Although a lot of the other people’ in Song’s life for the majority of the book, it doesn’t make them any less significant or memorable from the ones that are. This is a testament to Chan’s talent and understanding of characters and people – even if a character only makes a brief appearance in the novel, it’s still enough to form a strong opinion of the character, either forming a bond with them or being filled with anger whenever you see their name mentioned.
Although this novel spans several years, we aren’t inundated with character which will overwhelm the reader. At times I did think it was a little difficult to figure out how much time had passed; you were made aware when it had passed but not how much. It would have helped to know how old Song was in the chapter. Especially because it would have helped the reader understand Song when he seemed to go back on decisions he had made in the past, knowing how much time had passed for this to happen would make his decisions feel less rushed. However by the end of the novel you have a clearer idea of what year it is which was jarring but in a great way.
In addition to the character, Chan beauty describes the new word that Song finds himself in. I loved the descriptions of Guiana, they were so vibrant and alive it felt as though you were there with Song. You’re just drawn into this county, this is emphasised further with the contrast with the setting Song’s village in China at the beginning of the novel. From the wet and desolate village to the warm and colourful Guiana; where Song’s hardships really only just begun when he leaves China. Despite this song still draws strength from the world around him which was born inspiring and uplifting.
Overall, this novel was incredibly moving and a joy to read, even if it did break my heart at times. Pick this novel up and allow Chan to transport you to a different world. Which is much needed, especially when we can’t travel right now.