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Review: The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan


Title: The Storm We Made

Author: Vanessa Chan
Year published: 2024
Category: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 352 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)Malaysia

SummaryMalaya, 1945. Cecily Alcantara’s family is in terrible danger: her fifteen-year-old son, Abel, has disappeared, and her youngest daughter, Jasmin, is confined in a basement to prevent being pressed into service at the comfort stations. Her eldest daughter Jujube, who works at a tea house frequented by drunk Japanese soldiers, becomes angrier by the day.

Cecily knows two things: that this is all her fault; and that her family must never learn the truth.

A decade prior, Cecily had been desperate to be more than a housewife to a low-level bureaucrat in British-colonized Malaya. A chance meeting with the charismatic General Fujiwara lured her into a life of espionage, pursuing dreams of an “Asia for Asians.” Instead, Cecily helped usher in an even more brutal occupation by the Japanese. Ten years later as the war reaches its apex, her actions have caught up with her. Now her family is on the brink of destruction—and she will do anything to save them.

Spanning years of pain and triumph, told from the perspectives of four unforgettable characters, The Storm We Made is a dazzling saga about the horrors of war; the fraught relationships between the colonized and their oppressors, and the ambiguity of right and wrong when survival is at stake.

Review: This is my fifth book on my trip to New York and it followed two excellent books (Horse and Forsaken Country) and I was really hoping it was going to be excellent.

I am a little disappointed in this one. The concept is good but for some reason I didn't get pulled in as much as I hoped I would. Now, don't get me wrong, I liked it. I just didn't love it and I thought I would.

I like that it follows events for a family in the 1930s when Cecily, was younger and working as an unofficial spy for the Japanese and after the war in the mid-1940s when she is a mom and worried about her children and the awful things that are happening to them and their friends.

There is a lot of tragedy in this book. There is violence against children, subterfuge, and people who are unhappy with their lot in life and seek ways in which to remedy their loneliness. But there is also humanity. Those who are kind, who look out for others no matter how awful the situation is. There is friendship in the most unusual of circumstances and care from those that surprise us.

And, the setting is good. I have not read many books set in Asia during World War II and, for American as least, we hear of the major Pacific battles but not of what life was like for those in Malaysia, Korea, etc.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet Title--S
  • Decolonize--War story by an Asian author
  • Literary Escapes--Malaysia

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