Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

October 3, 2013 Asia, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction 28

G’Day Bookworms!

How’s everyone doing today? It’s Thursday, and that’s always good because that means tomorrow is Friday. You know what else is always good? Reading. (Ooooh smoooooooth segue, Katie.) A few years back I read The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, so when I saw that he had a new release coming out I was pretty excited. Today we’re going to talk about Songs of Willow Frost

songs of willow frostFULL DISCLOSURE: I received copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. There’s no need to worry that my opinions have been swayed by freebies, as I’m notoriously ungrateful. I never once sent Santa Claus a thank-you note. 
Songs of Willow Frost begins with a 12  year old William Eng. It’s 1934 and he’s living in an orphanage. He never knew his father, and his mother gave him up for adoption when he was 7. He never knew exactly what became of his mother and the uncertainty haunts him… Until the day the boys of the orphanage are taken to a movie in celebration of their collective birthdays. There, William finds himself face to face with his mother- on the big screen.
Because the film in which William’s mother was featured was actually a promotion for a touring theater company, William and his best friend (a blind girl named Charlotte) make plans to run away from the orphanage, catch the show, and reunite William with his long lost mother. You know, assuming the mysterious Chinese songstress in the promo and in the fliers is, in fact, William’s mother. Nobody ever accused 12-year-olds of being exceptionally rational.
Alright, so you guys already know that I dig historical fiction in a big way, right? I’ve also got a bit of a soft spot for books based on China and Chinese immigrants to the US. The culture is fascinating and heartbreaking. In this case, it’s mostly heartbreaking. You want to get riled up about women’s rights? Read this book and try not to scream. It’s so infuriating because these things really happened. Turns out the “Roaring Twenties” were only truly roaring if you were wealthy and white. Poor Chinese girls? They seriously got the shaft. This book hits on some really intense and unpleasant topics including abusive parents, sexual assault, overt racism, sexism, discrimination and forced sterilization. I KNOW! But it was totally a THING and it was totally AWFUL. 
The book, however? It was fabulous. I love reading about the grittier bits of history. It makes me grateful to be living in the here and now with all my lady rights and protections and whatnot. Gender equality certainly isn’t at 100% but it’s a heck of a lot better than it was back in the day. Oye. I found the book to be a quick read and a nice change of pace from my self imposed scare-tastic October reading list.
Anybody else out there a historical fiction fan? What are you most grateful for in the here and now? Tell me about it!

28 Responses to “Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford”

  1. My Book Strings

    After reading your review, I have put this book on my ever-growing to-read list. I really liked The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and this one sounds very interesting as well. I’m currently reading The Orphan Master’s Son, which is my first book set in North Korea. Talk about the grittier bits of history!

  2. Leah

    I loved this book. I was shocked by how much racism people of Asian descent received back then. I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was. Liu’s story was just so tragic. Such a sad, beautiful book.

  3. JoulesDellinger

    I’m typically not a huge historical fiction fan because when I’m reading about something terrible I’m typically in a terrible mood and take it out on my poor husband (which is yet another reason I can’t read books about cheating).

    Oh and as for what I’m grateful for? Tivo.

  4. Charleen

    This type of historical fiction isn’t my thing at all. When I read historical fiction I want kings and queens and court intrigue… I know it sounds terrible, but the history of ordinary people just doesn’t interest me, particularly when it’s depressing (which is usually). Not to say I haven’t read some “ordinary people” history that I’ve enjoyed – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for example, was really great (and that reminds me I really want to re-read that sometime soon) – but given the choice between that and something else, I’ll usually go with the something else.

    • Words for Worms

      I do enjoy queens and court intrigue, but I’m a sucker for normal people history. It’s cool though. Everybody likes different genres. That’s why there are ALL THE BOOKS!

  5. Don Royster

    Not too long ago I read “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr. It gives a great description of the New York City underworld of the nineteenth century. Also I can’t say enough about E. L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime”. Both very good novels.

  6. Sarah Says Read

    I can’t wait to grab this book from the library. I enjoyed Ford’s last book lots, and I like getting riled up about stuff. Poor Chinese immigrants and poor people and women and such. And I’m starting The Corrections soon which I feel like is going to make me feel annoyed with well-off white folks, so this’ll be a nice break if I can fit it in.

  7. Heather

    I just heard about this one on a podcast earlier in the week. It sounds fantastic. I’ll be reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet later in the month and I’m looking forward to reading this one after.

  8. Melinda

    Thanks for the review, I’m definitely adding this to my TBR, but not before I haven’t read The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which I actually have in my collection!

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