Breaking the Tongue: A Novel

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2004 - Fiction - 407 pages
2 Reviews
"This masterly novel is not only bold and challenging but also beautifully written. The reader will be left breathless by the ending."—Library Journal "A moving accomplishment."—Publishers Weekly, starred review "Vyvyane Loh's richly ambitious narrative weaves the personal and the political into an unforgettable novel."—Claire Messud "In the tradition of Rushdie or Ondaatje, this is one of the most accomplished first novels I've ever seen."—Andrea Barrett "A revelatory book that is both novel and history, written with splendid and intelligent humanity."—Shirley Hazzard, author of The Great Fire

This brilliant novel chronicles the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Central to the story is one Chinese family: Claude, raised to be more British than the British and ashamed of his own herita≥ his father, Humphrey, whose Anglophilia blinds him to possible defeat and his wife's dalliances; and the redoubtable Grandma Siok, whose sage advice falls on deaf ears. Expatriates, spies, fifth columnists, and nationalists—including the elusive young woman Ling-Li—mingle in this exotic culture as the Japanese threat looms. Beset by the horror of war and betrayal and, finally, torture, Claude must embrace his true heritage. In the extraordinary final paragraphs of the novel, the language itself breaks into Chinese. With penetrating observation, Vyvyane Loh unfolds the coming-of-age story of a young man and a nation, a story that deals with myth, race, and class, with the ways language shapes perceptions, and with the intrigue and suffering of war. Reading group guide included.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A Chinese family's divided loyalties are tested in the crucible of war in this dramatic first novel, set in Singapore during WWII, on the eve of the Japanese invasion and occupation.Loh focuses at ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fade2black81 - LibraryThing

A book that focuses on those who are not British but are raised to be so, to the point of losing their own identity. This book shows that if you can break the tongue of the natives you can break their culture and pride. Read full review

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Breaking the Tongue

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Page 13 - He must know where he stands. I may speak the English language better than the Chinese language because I learnt English early in life. But I will never be an Englishman in a thousand generations and I have not got the Western value system inside; mine is an Eastern value system. Nevertheless I use Western concepts, Western words because I understand them. But I also have a different system in my mind.

About the author (2004)

Vyvyane Loh was born in Malaysia and grew up in Singapore. She holds undergraduate and medical degrees from Boston University, and she graduated from the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. She now lives outside Boston.

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