Read The Thorn of Lion City: A Memoir by Lucy Lum Online


Lucy Lum was the third of seven children, born in Singapore in 1933 into a Chinese immigrant family ruled with an iron hand by Popo, her fearsome and superstitious grandmother. Popo is a firm believer in the old ways, in stomach-churning herbalist remedies, in the dubious fortune-telling of mystics, and in mischievous little girls like Lucy knowing their place. She is foreLucy Lum was the third of seven children, born in Singapore in 1933 into a Chinese immigrant family ruled with an iron hand by Popo, her fearsome and superstitious grandmother. Popo is a firm believer in the old ways, in stomach-churning herbalist remedies, in the dubious fortune-telling of mystics, and in mischievous little girls like Lucy knowing their place. She is forever dispensing her own wicked brand of justice, much to the despair of her adopted family.This is Singapore in the 1940s, a former British colony now living under the specter of the invading Japanese--the hungry worms crawling down from the north, as Lucy knows them--and fear floods the streets. Lucy's father, a kind-hearted and talented linguist, finds himself being used by the occupiers as a translator, and brings back terrifying stories of his merciless employers, which he confides to his daughter under the heavy teak table they use as a make-shift air raid shelter in the bedroom.With a fresh and powerful voice, The Thorn of Lion City breaks the long silence of the Singaporean Chinese. Heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant, it speaks of the softly-spoken, redemptive love between a father and daughter....

Title : The Thorn of Lion City: A Memoir
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781586484361
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 231 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Thorn of Lion City: A Memoir Reviews

  • Holstein
    2019-02-02 06:43

    This memoir, like many others depicting a difficult childhood, took me from fascination to resignation that life will not improve for the narrator. It was a good insight into life in Singapore during the Japanese occupation and also into family life dominated by conservative overbearing matriarchs. The strongest emotion I felt was relief that I evaded this kind of life by a mere few generations.

  • Pam
    2019-02-08 06:02

    While the writing of this book was certainly unpolished, even primitive at times, it had a certain rough honesty about it that actually added to the experience for me. The author grew up in a decidedly disfunctional, albeit traditional, Chinese household in Singapore, enduring & surviving the Japanese invasion and occupation, near starvation, near drowning, and worst of all... her mother and grandmother.

  • Carol
    2019-02-05 01:53

    This was an amazing story of growing up in Singapore during World War II and the Japanese occupation. Very eye opening and amazing that she survived her mother and grandmother, that she evidently got an education and has lived a productive life. I would like to have had more information on her post war life and how she ended up in England.

  • Erica
    2019-02-02 08:01

    This book is the true story of one family's experience during the Japanese invasion of Singapore. The author is the 3rd child of 5 (2nd daughter), and she was very young at the time, so the bulk of the story is focused on family life rather than how war affected the country. The abuse this poor child went through simply because she was a daughter--and not even the first--blows me away! There were times I was reading this on the bus and would realize I was frowning because what was considered 'OK' as a punishment for a daughter or slave during this time period would not fly at all today. Luckily, this author had a father with a heart of gold who was there to help her realize that the world's not all bad.

  • Catherine
    2019-02-14 08:00

    This engaging memoir kept me up too late over a couple of nights. The book focuses on Lucy Lum's childhood in Singapore during WWII and the Japanese occupation. The unusually cruel punishments and abuse doled out by her material grandmother, who lived with the family, and her mother were sometimes difficult to read. Lum's affection for her long-suffering father was very touching. I hope the experience of writing this memoir was cathartic for Lum. Her story was very interesting to read about. I'm intrigued to know what happened where the book left off.

  • Nancy
    2019-01-27 02:34

    This isn't an amazing book from the perspective of the writing, it is fascinating because it gives the tale of a young Chinese girl's life in Singapore around WWII. I was interested in what happened in Singapore during that time period, and the approach of another culture to family life. I would highly recommend it to someone living in Singapore.

  • monica
    2019-01-25 04:54

    This is a memoir of a Chinese immigrant family living in Singapore in the 1940's during the Japanese occupation. It is a story of a family ruled by a grandmother who was more concerned with keeping up appearances and entertaining friends, than the well being of her son-in-law or her grandchildren. And a heart warming story of the love between a father and daughter.

  • Dawn
    2019-02-15 02:51

    A poignant memoir of a young Chinese girl in Singapore during the Japanese occupation. The unsophisticated narrative made it even more real. Of special interest to me having lived in Singapore as a child

  • Kylie Schmitt
    2019-02-17 00:53

    The Thorn of Lion City The Thorn of Lion City is a memoir written by Lucy Lum or Miew-yong. The story takes place in Singapore during the Japanese invasion. Miew-yong is the third of seven children in her Chinese immigrant family. She has a strong bond with her father, who is the only one who truly treats her right. Her father was known for his incredible intelligence, as it shows when he was recruited by the government to become an interpreter. Miew-yong lives with her exceedingly superstitious grandmother, whom she calls Popo. Her grandmother and mother often team up against Miew-yong and display harsh discipline upon her, as was the tradition back then. Not only was she already the minority because she was a girl, but she wasn’t the firstborn girl which intensified the beatings she received. We don’t see a lot of her siblings in the story, mostly because nothing particularly interesting or important happened to them. The plot of the novel is about the war between Japan and Singapore. We not only get to witness this war get more violent by the minute, but we get to see it through little Miew-yong’s eyes. The dispute between Japan and Singapore in 1942 left the entirety of the nation in poverty, and without homes or food and as the story grows, we get to experience first-hand what it was like for those directly involved.This memoir was a decent book, but it was definitely not the best book I’ve ever read but it was certainly not the worst. I don’t typically read memoirs, unless the I am very interested in the historical account it displays. The best parts were when she would describe her sightings of the Japanese soldiers. She witnessed brutal beatings, one including a soldier shoving a hose into a Singaporean's mouth, then taking a wooden plank and placing it on his stomach. The men then proceeded to stand on the plank and jump up and down on the suspect. She saw naked men hung from trees, and mother’s living on the streets with no way to provide nutrition for their kids. The parts I didn’t like so much were the ones where it would give very detailed descriptions about the different cultural aspects of Singapore. It’s not that I don’t enjoy learning about other cultures, it’s just that sometimes the novel would go into such detailed descriptions, I would get lost in all the different terms I didn't understand. The best words to describe the overall theme of this book is “the bonds of family”. Miew-yong’s father and her have an inspiring relationship. When Popo and her mother would abuse her, she would find her father and they would get through the hardships with each other. It is obvious how much of a role model this man is to Miew-yong. Lucy says, “I thought about how hard he had worked to take care of his family, how kind he was, even though his wife and mother-in-law tormented him mercilessly.” (Lum 193) This novel is a grand example of how it only takes one family member to make a grand difference in your life. It’s saying that while your world may literally be falling apart, your family will always be there willing to sacrifice anything. Lum gives another example of how close Lucy and her father were by saying, “He smiled and beckoned to me and together we went out into the moonless night and a landscape swept clean by lashing rain. I slipped my hand into his as we walked home.” (Lum 153) The context of this quote is that Miew-yong’s mother had just thrown hot soup and dishes at her husband for asking the beggars that lived outside their home, to come eat dinner with them inside. Calmly, he exited the house and walked to work during an immense flood. All of the other children were scared to go out and follow him, but Miew-yong followed him and stayed with him. Miew-yong or Lucy Lum, lived during a truly horrendous time. War raged inside and outside of her home, but through all of that, her father kept her safe, as she kept him sane. The bond between them was inspiring, how they could help each other through anything, even though Lucy was just a little girl. This wasn’t my favorite novel but, her story is powerful, and pretty intriguing. A fearless little girl that witnessed so many horrific things and yet remained driven and kind, is the type of person we should all strive to be.

  • Rita
    2019-02-20 07:45

    2007The abuse heaped on the children by the grandmother and mother of this Singapore Chinese family is mind-boggling.We can be grateful to the person in Lum's post-1970 home London for encouraging her to write down her childhood experiences. One can only hope her enduringly sadistic mother and grandmother were/are highly exceptional, though Lum notes many times that visitors to their home sat silently by while one or another child was being overly harshly punished.Lum herself seems to have had a resilient spirit and presumably came out of this childhood still sane and able to function emotionally. One imagines her siblings fared less well; one was made to spend hours a day at [Buddhist] prayer, begging forgiveness for her supposed sinful nature. The youngest son, unlike the favored elder sons, seems to have been treated almost as bad as the daughters were.We see patterns familiar from family psychology -- a child endlessly desiring the parent's love, in spite of all the abuse, and eventually adopting the same abusive behavior and attitude as the parent. In early years Lum could count on a sort of understanding and sympathy from/with her older sister, but later she learned she could no longer trust this sister.[IN]justice is quite a theme of this memoir, and no wonder. Lucy was blamed for things she didn't do [often because one of her brothers shifted the blame to her and was immediately believed] and severely punished, never having her side of the story believed.We see the favoritism toward certain of the children [esp. the older two boys] and at the same time the high cost to their emotional development -- one assumes they grew to be highly dysfunctional adults.The emotionally healthy father's inability to stand up to the sadistic mother in law and wife cost the lives of himself and of at least two of his children. But WHO COULD stand up to them??Surprising to me was the existence of slavery of young girls in the Chinese community. Poor families sometimes found it necessary to sell one of their pre-teen-age daughters, and these slaves were bonded for life to the family who bought them, with no rights of any kind. In Lum's household their two or three slave girls were starved, beaten, worked like horses, blamed for all kinds of things they didn't do, and finally sold to brothels. Truly horrifying.Truly amazing that Lum survived this childhood.Another aspect of the book is everyday life under Japanese occupation. Interesting all the creative ways Singapore residents found to get food, fuel, etc. Also, the attitudes and tensions among the ethnic groups -- the extent to which Chinese looked down on Malays. Lum was sent to a Malay school during the war, and thus came to know a lot about her Malay friends' homes and families and customs. Most interesting.

  • Li Sian
    2019-02-04 23:54

    Memoir about growing up in a Chinese Singaporean household in the 1930s and during the Japanese Occupation. What struck me most about this book was how Lum depicts the Japanese Occupation as a mere continuation, and refractor, of the dysfunction and violence she witnessed from her family growing up: her abusive mother and grandmother who drive her beloved father to drink, the sale of mui tsais, and the betrayal of siblings. Lum's story, while undoubtedly extreme, struck way more of a chord with me than Chin Woon Ping's Hakka Soul, which takes a far more celebratory approach towards family and culture, save for the odd black sheep.Anyone interested in the particular dysfunction of Chinese Singaporean families should consider reading this. What's also interesting to me is how Malay people and Malay culture is depicted in the book - Lum's most violent and abusive relatives are also depicted as casually racists, and one of their victims (a bondmaid) eventually finds salvation by escaping and marrying a Malay man. The story ends on this hopeful (and lovely) note.

  • Kathryn Young
    2019-02-06 04:33

    This is an autobiographical account of a Chinese girl living in Singapore with her family during WWII. She is the third of seven children living with her brutal, abusive grandmother, her uncaring mother and her sweet, smart, but weak father. It's fascinating in terms of historical and cultural information, but I found a great relief when I finished... it was really hard to read about her sad life. Girls in Chinese culture were (and probably still are) treated as though they are worthless. She was punished frequently while her brothers were held in high esteem and never punished... they quickly learned to blame anything on their sisters, and abuse them as well.

  • Chris
    2019-02-14 01:33

    I mostly blast this book for false advertising. Supposedly about a "repressive" family during the Japanese occupation of Singapore this book was about growing up in a highly abusive family. It was horrifying, exhausting, etc. I'm sure I would have rated it higher if I had any sense of what I was getting into beforehand. So just be forewarned.

  • Kathy Chung
    2019-01-22 01:51

    Reviewed at Mama Kucing Books & Ravings: The Thorn of Lion City by Lucy LumIt's amazing what the love for male heir can do to a daughter. How can a mother do this to her daughter. It's just so sad.

  • Chuan Jee
    2019-02-10 23:48

    Memorable and detailed. It helped me understand life during the Japanese Occupation a lot, and also Chinese tradition, and the cruelty and kindness of human.

  • Meg Larken
    2019-02-11 04:33

    Is there a sequel?

  • Shelley
    2019-02-02 03:40

    Captivating, memorable and brutally honest.

  • Nadine
    2019-02-08 03:56

    Interesting and slightly sad look at life in China under Japanese occupation.