Saturday, July 28, 2012

Take a Chance

Title: Take a chance Where love means taking a chance whether you like it or not
Author: Alison Wong
Author's blog: Think Write, not Wong, Alison
Available on: Amazon (including Kindle edition) and others

Gist of the book, as on GoodReads:
A contemporary romance with a setting in England - a northern suburb, York and London. Hannah is a British Chinese who returns to England to reunite with her sister who she hasn’t seen for twenty years. Their re-union results in a series of chance meetings with Hannah’s ex-fiancĂ© Julian, who she ran away from eight years before. Can she find more than sisterly love and fall for Julian again? Or should she challenge her family values and let a little heavenly help and fate decide? If you love happy endings, read Take A Chance.

My views:

Second or third generation immigrants are often torn between the need to follow the traditions of their countries of origin and also the need to gel with the culture of their adopted country. As Alison Wong, author, portrays in this book, when it comes to marriage, it is likely that their family or society would like them to settle down with someone having the same origins. Is it fair to sacrifice love? Take a Chance, is about being given a second chance to take hold of the reins of one's life and follow one's own heart.

The author herself is a British ethnic Chinese, having lived in both England and Hong Kong. Thus, she is able to capture extremely well the setting of England and the cultures of both these countries, especially the traditional Chinese culture.

Hannah, who is the main protagonist in this book, is grieving over the death of her younger sister Jo, who has lost the battle against cancer. Her funeral is neat and quick and soon done with. The loss is too much to bear, and Hannah gets a sign from a little blue butterfly. Yes, this blue butterfly is perhaps Jo, appearing as a guardian angel to guide Hannah on a life changing journey.

So Hannah packs up her bags and decides to go visit Maddie, her best friend in England and also suddenly makes this brave decision to see her sister Rosalyn, whom she has not heard from since the past twenty years.

Years ago, when Hannah was still growing up, Rosalyn had run away from home, without even completing her studies to marry a 'non-Chinese'. All ties with Rosalyn were broken the day she left home.

They were all then living in England. The step taken by Rosalyn made the parents even more determined to ensure that their other two daughters toed the line. Jo and Hannah's life and career was all laid out for them. When Hannah finished her graduation, the family moved back to Hong Kong. It was drilled into them that they must succeed in their careers, marry someone richer and having a higher status, who is of course - not a foreigner.

Emotions of sorrow, frustration, anxiety, confusion and joy are very sensitively dealt captured in relation to each character in the book.

In fact, while Hannah's father came across as quite dominating and someone set in his ways, given how sensitively his character is portrayed one could understand that he is only trying to protect his girls and uphold the traditional Chinese culture. He does not want them to interact with 'outsiders' especially boys, to ensure that they marry within the community. But he does so from an unshaken belief that this is best for them.

When Hannah sets foot in England, in a twist of faith, not only does Hannah meet her sister and the wounds begin to heal, but she also bumps into her ex-finance Julian.

While years ago, she had got engaged to Julian -- they were students at the same University. Yet she ran away, because of a misunderstanding as regards his relationship with his childhood friend and more so because she did not have the will to go against her parents wishes. When she meets him again, she initially to run away yet again.

Fortunately this time, Maddie, her University friend and Rosalyn help her realise that she needs to live her own life and not live a life as dictated to her by her parents. Jo, the guardian angel also sends subtle messages.

When Hannah has to decide whether or not to marry Julian, Rosalyn tells her: "... Remember you are ultimately in charge of your life. If its Julian you want, marry him. If it's going against everything that upsets your values about love and marriage, still marry Julian because your values aren't yours, they're Mum and Dads."

The ending is a happy one, when Hannah finally is able to express her true feelings and tell Julian that she loves him.

I do not per se, read romantic novels, yet this was not a Mills and Boon kind of story. The dynamics of the need to break free and follow one's heart, make it an endearing read.

Alison Wong agreed to an interview, it is interesting to read the author's concept about love and of her inspiration behind this book.

1) What inspired you to write this book?

I had three inspirations:

Firstly, there aren't many chick-lit style books about British-ethnic Chinese falling in love with their countrymen/women. I wanted to write a story about a British-ethnic Chinese lady, Hannah who loves and is loved by an Englishman, her ex-fiance Julian whom she hasn't seen for eight years. If you grow up as a second generation or third generation Chinese in an adopted country there is often the chance you would fall in love with someone outside your culture, is this not true? Moreover, I wanted to describe a love story where Hannah flutters about with her conscience: should she fall in love with someone who isn't Chinese and obey her parents' ideals about finding the perfect man, or should she fall for the man who is already perfect for her even if he isn't Chinese? Secondly, I wrote Take a Chance in memory of my sister who died before she was able to find love. It is my present to her. Finally, I realised life is short and my sister had many dreams she never had the chance to achieve. My dream was to publish my book. I achieved it and that's good enough for me.

2) The book takes the reader from England to HongKong, any reason for choosing these interesting countries as settings in the book?

It actually starts off briefly in Hong Kong and is mainly set in England due to the nature of Hannah's love story, background and her need to reunite with her estranged sister in England. Of course, she ends up reuniting with her ex-fiancé too.

3) How would you define love? Do you believe in it? What would you like to tell a reader who is cynical about love?

Love is in the stars. I strongly believe in destiny. Two people who are meant to be together are chosen by fate to be together for a reason. How do you know the person is right for you? When you know that something is missing when you are not sharing with that person. If you are cynical about love then love has many chances you have to explore. You can't expect love to find you or meet your expectations or needs. Love means not changing a person or a partner. It means team-work. Once you've found that fit, then fate put you together for a reason. don't expect love to find you. You have to listen to it and find it in the right place, at the right time with the right person.

4) What's the next writing project on your plate?

I'm dabbling with a second novel and see where it takes me.

5) How has your past vocation as a teacher helped you in your new writing career?

It's helped me tremendously with grammar, writing skills and proofreading. I'd like to reserve editing to the professionals. I'm my worst critic. How would I rate Take A Chance? It's not my best work since I still need to consider whether writing is a new career is for me. Who knows? There are so many priorities in life. As William Shakespeare said: "There is nothing either good or bad...But thinking makes it so."

6) Which is your favourite romantic novel and why?

Pride and Prejudice. Need I explain? In one sentence: Elizabeth Bennet vs. Mr. Darcy equals sparks.

Author's bio: Alison Wong was born in Hong Kong but grew up in England. She is a graduate of Lancaster University, England and has a Masters Degree in T.E.S.L. from Hong Kong. Having taught English for 14 years she left teaching to become a housewife and writer. Alison now divides her time between home and writing novels. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband and son.

Thank you Alison for the book and for the interview.

Source of the Photograph: I photographed these roses some years ago, at the annual Lalbaugh flower show in Bangalore, India.


Jules said...

While the cultures in this book are different from my own - I come from a similar 'romantic' background. We tease that our children are 'Heinz 57' (because of the American company that used 57 ingredients to make it's single tomato ketchup product) in regards to cultural heritage. And while at first there was some reaction from family to our choice of marriage partner, the acceptance and disapproval were not from the family members we expected it to be from. In the end though it all worked out and we've been endearingly enjoying each other in wedded bliss for over 30 years. I wish for everyone the happiness they desire and deserve.

Susan P. Cooper said...

As always, I love the review. I found it engaging and interesting. You have wetted my appetite for more and as such I will be downloading it to read. :-), Susan Cooper

Annie said...

Hi Lubna. I love your new blog as I love books too. I agree with the author when she says "Pride and Prejudice" is the best romance, my favorite! I will put her book on my list. I just read a wonderful book called "Little Bee". Love the blue butterfly. Have a wonderful rest of your Summer. xoxo

Lubna said...

@Jules: Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Wishing both of you many many more joyful years together.

Lubna said...

@Susan and Annie: It is always so nice to have you visit my blog. Yes, the blue butterfly's appearance in the book was quite the right touch.

JP said...

Nice review. This sounds like it could be an interesting read. I like cross cultural stories.

Lakshmi said...

The book sounds interesting and a good page turner. Your interview with the author is also quite useful to get to know the author.

Lubna said...

Thanks, JP and Lakshmi.

Catarina said...

The kind of marriages the book is about has become a huge problem in Europe. Muslim girls are frequently forced to marry someone back home that they neither want to marry nor love. If they refuse, the men in their families feel their honour require them to kill the girl.

Such problems wouldn't be as prominent as they are if the authorities in Europe understood how it works in other cultures. But they don't and inst ead try to unite the girl and her parents. Predictably, that's the end of her.

It takes generations to change cultural beliefs so it's essential that authorities in Europe wake up and start making sure the girls are not killed.

Alison said...

Hello Lubna,
Words escape me verbally. Thank you so much for your review of Take A Chance. It has captured the essence of my book in an honest, succinct and balanced way. I feel humbled that you understood the message of love, parental aspirations and Hannah's conscience. I wrote my book 6 years ago, so I hope I can write better, for the love of writing.
Thank you to you and everyone's comments.
All the best,

Lubna said...

Thank you Alison, it was lovely interacting with you.

Lubna said...

@Catarina: Fortunately, while I belong to a Muslim family, honour killings is unknown in my community here. That said, it is a problem in some Indian villages (but let me say that the problem is rare and not rampant), where the local village heads get together and actually approve of it. Of course Indian laws do not permit such killings. A recent TV show hosted by Bollywood Actor Amer Khan had brought this problem to the forefront.
I think NGOs led by Muslims can play a huge role in Europe in curbing this cultural practice.

Bethany Lee said...

Another great review Lubna. And again, this really sounds like a book I'd like to read. I am still reading one of the other books you reviewed (and enjoying it). If only I could read faster or find more time for it.
I love hearing about, seeing, or reading about cross cultural relationships of any kind. While on one hand, I think it is always good to remember one's heritage and ethnic upbringing, on the other hand, if one finds friendship or romantic relationship with someone in another culture, I believe that love should be honored.
I also enjoyed the interview with the author.

Geek Girl said...

Another great review! This one definitely sounds like a good read. :)

Lubna said...

Thanks, Beth and Geek Girl for dropping by.

Jeri said...

I just might have to add this one to my reading list! I also like the way your couple an interview along with your review.

Susan Oakes said...

Another great review and interview Lubna and i will be adding this to the list of books to read.

Lubna said...

Thank you Jeri and Susan Oakes

Dilip said...

Nice review Lubna. Looks interesting I may have a read on a weekend.

Relyn Lawson said...

Pride and Prejudice - I get it. Right there with you, in fact.

Lubna said...

Thanks, Dilip and Relyn for dropping by.

krystle said...

I love the title of the book. Very inspiring! Thank you for the awesome review!!