Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
March 19, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Breaking the Tongue

Current Status
In Season
Vyvyane Loh

We gave it a B-

Beginning with a dreamlike, hallucinatory torture scene in which Singapore native Claude Lim suffers at the hands of the invading Japanese, Breaking the Tongue is a striking tableau of the horrific WWII battle between the British and Japanese for the island, related with poetic delicacy. Loh’s first novel revolves around Lim, whose parents are such Anglophiles that the father insists on growing roses in the tropical garden, the mother prefers her lovers British, and English is the only language the child learns. When the Japanese invade, the civilized facade shatters as an essentially identity-less country is forced to choose sides. Breaking the Tongue has the makings of a great drama, but it’s difficult to fully engage with characters who have trouble connecting with each other. B- — Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

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