Friday, May 01, 2009


Picador USA sent me a review copy of The Foreigner by Francie Lin some while ago but had not got round to reading it. I am now 170 pages in and have noted that the book has been awarded the Edgar for best first Novel by an American author.
See The Rap Sheet's run down of the winners and nominees here.

Emerson Chang, a mild mannered financial analyst and 40 year old virgin, is dominated by his mother who runs a battered motel called the Remada Inn. Emerson's mother has ruined his one chance of a relationship with an older American woman many years before and keeps him close to her with ideas of loyalty to family and culture.

"A son is always the little boy to the mother", she explained, filling her own teacup.

"Everyday he just work, work ,work, and then on Friday all he want is to have dinner with Mother."

When his mother suddenly dies and Emerson discovers that she has left the Remada Inn to his younger brother, Peter Chang, Little P, who they have not seen for 10 years. Emerson, who does not speak Chinese, sets out for Taipei to scatter his mother's ashes and to find Little P. When he does find his brother he is involved with the Taiwanese criminal underworld running a some kind of racket from his uncle's Karaoke bar. There Emerson meets some very unpleasant cousins andin wandering the city other Chinese Americans looking for their roots. His uncle's mysterious employee, the cultured Atticus explains to him much of the history of Taiwan.

Long shelves of English and Chinese volumes were carefully arrayed along the walls; even the bathroom had a bookshelf: Dickens, Tolstoy, an anthology of Checkhov plays.

"Now Taiwan was given to Japan at the end of the Sino-Japanese War. A big dishonor for China; you cannot imagine the shame."

I have found this novel a little slow and predictable in that Little P was bound to be in big  trouble, but perhaps things will brighten up in the second half of the book. The character of Emerson who narrates the story is rather wimpish, and I find myself shouting at him "Come on find out what is going on". 

My son flies out to work in Taipei on Sunday therefore the Taiwanese setting interested me.
[to be continued]


Blogger Dorte H said...

It will be interesting to see your final judgment of the winner :D

12:52 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home