Source: eARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley
It was the title that got me. It’s such an Asian saying that I couldn’t help but be interested by what Beth Yahp had to say. I seemed to be mistaken a lot in my expectations of books this year and this was one of it… I probably saw the word ‘memoir’ and immediately expected that it would be about the author but if I read the blurb properly, I would read in the last paragraph, “Eat First, Talk Later is a beautifully written, absorbing memoir of a country…”
Oops, I’ve mismanaged my expectation of the work and was therefore, utterly puzzled by it! To begin with, I was so very confused by the structure (not chronological!) and almost gave up for the frustration in trying to keep up with the back and forth and all around in time. About ¾ of the way through this memoir, I finally understood that this work wasn’t really about the author. Whilst she was keen to explore her background and family history, the heft of her work is related to her birth country, Malaysia; the history, the culture, the food (!), and politics.
Because I was more invested in finding out about her story and her family’s story. I found those section a lot more appealing though I had to muddle through the switches between times and was also perplexed by her love lives. Far be it for me to judge but it was something I do not understand so once more, I was driven to confusion. On the other hand, the topics explored on Malaysia was truly enlightening. Whilst I know and loved some Malaysian cuisine, it seems I barely know anything of the country itself. I also grew up in an East-Asian country and cannot deny my Chinese appearance / heritage so I understood quite a few things she underwent and some of the matters expounded.
Eat First, Talk Later is an exploration of Malaysia with snippets of author’s family’s historical links to the country. It was a struggle in making sense of certain timelines but as to the topics discussed, author was eloquent in her views and they were clearly articulated. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I didn’t have to puzzle out the timelines.
Thanks Random House Australia for eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review