Sold for Silver by Janet Lim Monsoon $101 Sold for Silver is described as 'an autobiography of a girl sold into slavery in Southeast Asia'. The tagline raises the false expectation that the bulk of the book - a reprint of a 1958 publication - is focused on author Janet Lim's experiences in bondage. But 48 pages into the 240-page book, Lim has already regained her freedom from the family she was sold to. Still, Lim's was a life less ordinary, translating easily into poignant reading. Born in 1923 in Hong Kong, she was only a few months old when her parents moved to the mainland to live in her father's home village, where he owned rice fields and sugar cane plantations. Lim's shrewd eye for detail lets her extract every quirk in her early childhood to recreate a rustic lifestyle not many in the present generations have had the chance to experience at first-hand. Yet there were thrills aplenty within the serenity of village life, including fights between Lim's village and another over disputed land and her own escape from a pack of wolves. Death is common in her story. After her younger brother died of an illness, her father soon became frail and passed away. Life took a turn after Lim's mother remarried. At the age of eight, Lim was left with a wealthy family near Swatow. The next thing she knew, she was on a boat to Singapore, where she was sold for $250 as a slave girl (or mui tsai, Cantonese for 'little younger sister') into a rich family. It was a hard life (especially with a lustful employer always lurking in the shadows), but Lim was soon rescued by a European nurse and brought to a home for orphans and former slaves. She was enrolled in a mission school. Lim arranges her memoirs neatly into chronological chapters, but she sometimes slips too consciously into the role of the storyteller when she tries to hint at what is to happen later in the book. Once the reader gets used to her plain, honest style, however, the story races, especially after the chapter on the mission hospital (where Lim had worked after finishing school) gives way to her first accounts of war as the Japanese troops arrived in Singapore. The ship that Lim tried to escape in was bombed. She drifted at sea for days, suffering serious internal injuries before she was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in Sumatra. Her struggles continued - this time against becoming a comfort woman. Murder, torture and death threats are usually good ingredients for sensationalism, but Lim refrains from straying into melodrama by presenting her story without prejudice or cliche. She writes objectively about the good and the ugly of humanity, whether the spotlight is on Chinese, Europeans or Japanese. This is more than just a historical account documenting the life of an extraordinary and courageous woman. Sold for Silver is a personal story about finding kindness (and occasionally humour) and keeping the faith through life's longest, darkest hours.