When the Future Comes Too Soon
by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
When the Future Comes Too Soon is the second part of “The Malayan Series” by Malaysian-Chinese author Selina Siak Chin Yoke. Siak’s own remarkable story was told to this paper in December: she has survived two bouts of cancer, which inspired her to write her first novel, The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (2016). That debut follows the fall and rise of Chye Hoon, who flouts convention in late 19th-century British Malaya to become a successful, if increasingly Westernised, cook.
The sequel is narrated by Chye’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, a well-bred member of the upper class. Her life is not easy, however, thanks largely to her erratic husband, Weng Yu. The story opens in December 1941, with Mei’s daughter crying, “Eggs falling on the ground!” She means bombs, although it’s nice that Chye’s culinary imagery survives. Mei proves an eloquent narrator and a sympathetic and surprisingly resilient heroine.
Siak writes with genuine dramatic flair, vivid feeling for atmosphere and a keen sense of dramatising history. Highly recommended.