Readable History of China
The characters in this book illustrate in a completely readable fashion the history of China. Each generation of these amazing women has its own happiness and tragedy. Their lives made me appreciate what we as Americans take for granted every day. They were poor beyond imagining, but their faith and their courage unshakable. You don't have to be familiar with Chinese food to realize what it signified and how it brought the women together, but at the end you will be.
This is a highly readable book - you will have a hard time putting it down.
Rated of 5
by Catherine (Aurora CO)
This is a memoir of the lives of the author's grandmother and mother and, to a lesser extent, the author herself. The story of what the grandmother went through pre-World War II and post-World War II in China and Hong Kong is amazing. The choices she had to make are heartbreaking. Parts of the book are like a history lesson but in a good way. The historical details are woven seamlessly into the narration. The author gives a very honest portrayal - the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses - of her family. Would definitely recommend this book for book clubs.
Rated of 5
by Kathryn (Oceanside CA)
Delightful Read Sweet Mandarin, by Helen Tse is a delightful read about three generations of Chinese women that affirms the strength and resiliency of the feminine spirit. A memoir that seems more like a novel, takes the reader from Hong Kong to England and back. This true story keeps the pages turning! Unlike recent books about ancient Chinese heroines, these women live in the twentieth century. A lot of the old ways still exist but this family embraces the blending of cultures without losing the strength of their roots. Much of what is passed from one generation to the next, revolves around the love of food and cooking. I found it fascinating reading. It's a good book!
Rated of 5
by Patricia (Frankfort IL)
A story of resilence and the power of the human spirit
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It read like a novel but I had to keep reminding myself it was a true story. The book is mainly about Lily, the matriarch of three generations of women and her life in rural China, Hong Kong and later England. Sweet Mandarin refers to a restaurant started by Lily's granddaughters. Two thumbs up!
Rated of 5
by Nancy (Nashville TN) (Hermitage TN)
Knowing that the people, places and events portrayed in this book are real helped to make reading it even more enjoyable. Helen Tse brings the reader into her life and the lives of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother through the places, events and Chinese traditions and culture that influenced them. Each woman experienced hardships and made sacrifices because of them. These things only seemed to make them stronger. The heritage that Helen and her sisters received from each of these women is brought out in their own ambitions and perseverance; and they, in turn, will pass it on to their children. The husbands and fathers of each of these women were also important. A male child is honored in Chinese families because they are the link to carrying on the family name and become the support for the older members of the family. As fathers, these men valued their daughters and gave worth to their lives.
I think that it would be a real treat to travel to England and eat in the Sweet Mandarin restaurant and taste the dishes made from the recipes that have survived through generations. I would highly recommend reading this book for history, culture and pure enjoyment.
Rated of 5
by Monica (Moorestown NJ)
Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!
How much did I love this memoir? A celebration of mothers and daughters and food, glorious food! I read slowly, savoring the words, not wanting to run out, knowing what would happen then. "And then what happened?" I wanted more. I wanted to visit Sweet Mandarin, and barring that, I wanted those recipes! I adored this memoir, these remarkable women and their journey of strength and wisdom. Certain passages, especially at the end, are so special, they give me goosebumps. When at last I'd reached The End, I closed the book feeling so proud of these women I'd come to know and love. And so inspired.
Rated of 5
by Dorothy (Maynard MA)
To England from China by way of Hong Kong
I saw a quote once that said “Anyone who says you only have one life to live hasn’t learned to read.” Sweet Mandarin, a memoir by Helen Tse, shows just how far a book can take you into another life. Sweet Mandarin is the name of the restaurant Helen Tse and her two sisters opened in Manchester, England in 2004. It is one of a series of food related businesses her family owned, beginning with her grandfather’s soy sauce business and continuing through restaurants and take-aways owned by her grandmother and her parents. Her story following the importance of food to her family is billed as being about three generations of Chinese women. While it does talk about Helen’s life and that of her mother, this is really her grandmother Lily’s story. Born in a tiny primitive village in China to a family with no surviving sons and six daughters in a country where women have no status – legal or otherwise, Lily is determined not only to survive but to change and improve her life and the lives of her children. Demonstrating incredible courage and determination, she makes frighteningly difficult – sometimes heartbreaking - decisions to make sure that happens. The story of her life in China and in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation during WWII is riveting. The cultural shock suffered when Lily comes to England brought to mind Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I found this an easy to read fascinating look at a very different and very difficult life.
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