Sunday, December 22, 2013

Short stories from long ago

Since the last post was about a bookshop, it's time to follow up with a book review.  "Kebaya Tales", by Lee Su Kim, is a book of short stories - tales which you can just hear being told by old bibiks to their friends or their children, which have made the rounds of their family circles.  

The short story is very different from a novel.  It is meant to be easily digested and enjoyed - you jump right into the story, it builds up quickly, and ends with the climax or the twist in the tale.  This little book is full of such little gems.  Stories of matriarchs, matchmakers and unexpected brides and grooms.  Some tales touch on the supernatural, playing to the superstitious nature of the baba community in the past.  Some deal with the wartime years, under the Japanese.  

But the ones I like best are the ones which deal with family relationships.  The story of the old bibik who managed to figure out how to ensure that her caring daughter-in-law got a fair share of her inheritance.  Or the story of the no-good husband who managed to hide the existence of his mistress from his wife... until the day of his funeral.  

What I also like about the book is that the stories are interspersed with family photos, and photos of the beautiful kebaya, shoes and jewellery belonging to the author and members of her family.  I drool over the intricate lace and embroidery work on the kebaya and the bright patterns on the shoes.  (BTW, in case anyone is interested, the pink of the book cover is close to the pink of the beads of my kasuk manek project.)

Reading through this little book of short stories indeed brings back a flavour of years gone by.

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