Five Malaysian books to give you a romantic rush on Valentine’s Day


  • Books
  • Friday, 14 Feb 2020

For Valentine's Day, a book on love is always a good idea. Photo: Filepic

It's Valentine’s Day! What better way to enjoy this celebration of love than by immersing yourself into a wonderful love story?

We’ve picked out five Malaysian books focusing on love. Some are short story collections, some are novels. Some are a bit more romantic, while some are a bit more practical. But all of them feature characters who fall in love and have their lives forever changed.

So sit back, and have a romantic read or two.

The Japanese Lover (2010, Hodder & Stoughton)
Author: Rani Manicka

Rani Manicka made Malaysia proud by being the first local author to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize for South East Asia and South Pacific Region in 2003, with her debut novel The Rice Mother. But her novel The Japanese Lover is the one you need on a lovey dovey Feb 14.

Here, we see Parvathi leaving her home in Ceylon and heading to Malaya for an arranged marriage to Kasu Marimuthu, a local businessman. Kasu is enraged, however, after he discovers Parvathi is not exactly the girl who is promised to him.

The two manage to compromise and live a decent, if passionless life. Things change, however, as World War 2 breaks out and the Japanese invade Malaya. Parvathi is forced to accept the protection of a Japanese general. Slowly, however, her sworn enemy becomes her lover.

The Teardrop Story Woman ((1998, Overlook Books)
Author: Catherine Lim

In this book, Malaysian-born Singaporean author Catherine Lim creates a heartbreaking tale of forbidden love in 1950s Malaya. It tells the story of Mei Kwei, who has a tiny mole in the shape of a tear mark in the corner of her eye. This is seen a bad omen, a sign of impending disaster.

However, things look quite rosy for Mei Kwei, who has extraordinary good looks and a gift for storytelling. Both are traits believed to have been inherited from her grandmother. This attracts her to many suitors: however, the man she loves is a man she cannot have. Mei Kwei falls for a French Catholic missionary. This sets a tragic chain of events into motion.

Love in Penang (2013, Fixi Novo)
Various authors, edited by Anna Tan

Is Penang the most romantic state in Malaysia? It’s hard to say, but this book makes a strong argument for it. Love In Penang is a collection of 18 stories, all surrounding matters of the heart. Everything is set in the Pearl of the Orient.

In one story, two foreign workers fall for each other. Another story has a bookworm finding a love letter in a library, and while in the next chapter, a worried aunt investigates her niece’s groom.

Of course, you don’t have to from Penang to appreciate these tales. The light and contemporary feel of many of these stories make this a perfect choice for a bookworm’s romantic evening. Authors in this book include Zen Cho, Marc de Faoite, Nadia Khan, Ee Leen Lee, and Gina Yap Lai Yoong.

My Giant Geek Boyfriend (2017, Maple Comics)
Writer/illustrator: Fishball

Feel like a quick and whimsical read? Pick up this comic book, which chronicles the romance between cartoonist Fishball and her Giant Geek Boyfriend.

She may stand at 1.5m and he stands at 1.9m, but despite this huge height difference, they both love each other very much. Fishball’s comics are very slice of life, with the couple dealing with issues such as meeting the parents and dealing with life’s frustrations. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship is bound to relate to many of these stories.

This comic is written in both English and Chinese, but don’t worry if you don’t speak these languages. Most of the time, Fishball’s images do a great job telling the story on their own!

The Night Tiger (2019, Flatiron Books)
Author: Yangsze Choo

Set in 1930s Malaya, this is a sweeping tale of Malaysian folklore, adventure and romance all rolled into one.

Ji Lin is an ambitious girl who wants to be a doctor, but has to make do with working as a dressmaker. She moonlights as a dancer, and one day, is left a mysterious item by one of her dance partners. A severed finger!

Ji Lin goes on a quest to discover who it belongs too, and also finds romance along the way, in a very unexpected place! Choo is also the author of The Ghost Bride.

If you’re still in the mood for more love, then check out Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden Of Evening Mists and Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride, which are also wonderful tales of romance. These were both in the news recently, so we decided to go with other books for this list.

Also try checking out JK Asher’s The Inverted Banyan Tree, Selina Siak Chin Yoke’s When The Future Comes Too Soon, Aneeta Sundararaj’s The Banana Leaf Men and Paul Callan’s The Brigadier’s Daughter for more tales of love.

Click me for a special Kee's World Valentine's Special!Click me for a special Kee's World Valentine's Special!

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