Reviews for The Thorn of Lion City
"In her serenely composed debut memoir, native daughter Lum provides a rare, compelling glimpse of Singapore during WWII ... subtly champions the will of a young girl who refused to be silenced ... A riveting narrative of little-known Chinese history. - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"... this brutal world is described with such grace that, like Lum, you may develop vicarious nostalgia for the "delicious roasting smell" of her grandfather's opium pipe." - Entertainment Weekly
"No one leaves this book unscathed. But it is all for the better, for Lucy Lum's new, highly engrossing memoir ... brings to life a seldom examined sliver of Chinese history. Weaving the personal and the global-political, The Thorn of Lion City tells the story of Ms. Lum's Chinese émigré childhood in British-ruled Singapore during the Japanese occupation of WWII. But even before the hardships of the Japanese occupation, Ms. Lum-then just a young girl of no more than seven-endured life under the brutal dictatorship of Popo, her maternal grandmother...
... her main crime seemed to be that she was born a girl ... Yet the story of Ms. Lum's childhood is told with an anger that is restrained and elegant. In brief, episodic chapters, the narrative moves at a brisk trot. The writing's precision and attention to detail avoids overwrought sentiment, with the writer trusting to her material. Such controlled handling of explosive feelings moves the reader beyond the rage and resentment the young girl must have felt at the time ...
... Bringing together a story of personal courage, a nurturing father-daughter relationship, cruel maternal family overlords, and the hardships of life in a time of war, The Thorn of Lion City is a truly magnificent memoir. It contains equal parts death, delight, dread and hope-the sort of stuff that keeps one reading late into the night. In fact, having read it well into the night, this reviewer feels somehow more human. In many ways, it was an immense and touching book. Reading, there were times when I wanted to weep-yes, like a little girl-but refrained: the young girl of the memoir kept her dignity intact and spirit alive, and so must we all." - Asian American Press
"In modestly elegant prose, Lum portrays the lean, hard years during which she must navigate the crushing adult forces around her and bear witness to horrible events ... Lum's work resonates with power and grace." - Publishers Weekly
"... brilliant memoir dedicated to her father ... Essential for all large libraries, this will enrich multicultural and memoir collections of all sizes." - Library Journal (starred review)
"Lucy Lum gives us insight into the Oriental customs towards female children. Though she is compared ... to other female Asian writers ... her work stands out from them because of its deep concern for mistreated women." - Sunday Herald (Scotland)
"The events she recounts are vividly shocking - the carpet of bodies lying across the drive of their house after an air raid ... are described with a quiet matter-of-factness. But there is nothing resigned or despairing in this account. Instead, her observations are full of emotional weight, a cool anger that is all the more potent in its restraint ...
Set against this candid appraisal of her own suffering and the plight of the starving refugees is Lum's resilient capacity for delight. She savours the frugal but delicious meals cooked by a local Malay family, she enjoys drawing the water lilies that decorate the surface of the pond in the Botanical Gardens, and she relishes the gaudy colours of the bougainvillaea that she sees as she wanders through the city.
But more than anything she loves her father; it is his company she craves, his stories that she longs to hear. Tellingly, The Thorn Of Lion City is dedicated to his memory, and one senses that it was his affection and respect that gave the already courageous Lum the strength and determination to survive her childhood with her spirit and hope intact ..." - Mail on Sunday (UK)
"The Thorn of Lion City is a terrifying look into World War II-era Singapore. By today's standards, Popo, the frightening grandmother of Lucy Lum, is a megalomaniacal sadistic child-abuser who rules the roost with an iron fist consisting of harsh beatings and revolting home remedies.
Lum's gentle yet ineffective father (he does nothing to protect her from the dreaded Popo) works as a translator for the Japanese who have invaded their homeland. One cannot help but wonder how long the Japanese would have stayed in Singapore had they been subjected to the tender mercies of Popo.
The Thorn of Lion City is guaranteed to make you cringe in revulsion as you read about what passed for matriarchal care when Lucy Lum grew up. Indignation vies with virulent anger as you read of the way the poor child was treated. Forewarned is forearmed - this book is not for the squeamish, but it is compelling if you can stomach it." - Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Karri Watson, 2007
"... cleared-eyed memoir of growing up during the Japanese occupation of Singapore ... give us heroines who become actors in their own lives ..." - More Magazine (USA)