Book review: Bitter Leaves

By Tabatha Stirling
Published by Unbound Digital

Synopsis: Welcome to the black heart of Singapore’s maid culture, where a woman’s life is cheap in one of the richest countries in the world. Here are the voices of the unheard, of maid and employer, of village girl and city dweller. Follow Lucilla, Ma’am Leslie, Shammi and Madame Eunice as they strive, each in her own way, to exist in a country in which dark shadows lie beneath its pristine exterior. The lives of these women are woven together by a narrative which is always candid and often brutal, as it explores the effects of loss, madness, abuse and hope during a woman's life and in society as a whole.

How did this book end up in my hands? I have read the online serialisation of this novel via The Pigeonhole.

Was it a page-turner? Every day, for 10 days, I received a link to that day’s instalment with an estimated reading time of 25 minutes. Whilst this gave me time to savour the book, get to know the voices of the characters and spend time imagining the locations, the next instalment couldn’t come soon enough!

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? On the whole, yes, but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of the language.

Did I like the ending? [no spoilers] Yes. As they say, you reap what you sow.

Three words to describe it. Poetic. Hopeful. Shocking.

Do I like the cover? I believe the paperback will be published this month and I haven’t seen a cover for it yet. I’m curious!

Have I read any other books by the same author? No. I believe that Bitter Leaves is the author’s debut novel but she has an extensive body of work to her name (look here for example) and I look forward to drinking in more of her words!

Will I be recommending this book? Yes, absolutely. If you like learning about other cultures, if you look to travel through the pages of a book and if you enjoy character-led narratives, this is the perfect read. It is a very emotional book but it is worth every tear and sigh of frustration.


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