Imagine if Agatha Christie’s sleuth was a feisty Singapore widow who owned a restaurant. That is Rosie Lee, the protagonist in ‘Aunty Lee’s Delights.’ This is Ovidia Yu’s first book published in the United States. However, Yu is well known in Singapore and India where she has published plays, children’s books, fiction and non-fiction. She dropped out of medical school to follow her dream of being a writer. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Iowa’s International Writers Program.
In a conversation with the acclaimed Louise Penny, an award winning Canadian writer, Ovidia Yu shares that it was through Agatha Christie’s books that she fell in love with reading. But she goes on to state that her favorite lady sleuths aren't Ms. Marple but a tie between Henrietta Savernake (The Hollow) and Lucy Eyelesbarrow (4:50 from Paddington). Yu states, “I like to think Aunty Lee owes something of her genesis to Lucy Eyelesbarrow!”
As the story begins, a body is washed up on the beach in an area previously named Pulau Blakang Mati – ‘Island of Death.’ However, the name has been changed to attract tourists to Sentosa – ‘Happy Peacefulness.’ When Aunty Lee hears news of the unidentified body, her natural curiosity is aroused. Then when a guest fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee decides the two events are connected and feels compelled to figure out who it is.
I loved this book and strongly recommend it.
The strength of the book are the characters. Aunty Lee is a rich widow who isn’t content to be a “tai, tai” an idle rich lady. She owns and works in a restaurant featuring spicy home styled Singapore food. Aunty Lee’s sidekick is Nina Balignasay, a servant from the Philippines. Aunty Lee has taken under her wing, buying her clothes, feeding her, giving her computer and driving lessons. According to her stepson’s wife, Selina, Aunty Lee treats a servant way too well.
The other aspect I enjoyed was learning about Singapore and the culture there. Yu includes a recipe for Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar, a native dish.
This would be an interesting selection for Book Clubs to read along with a Singapore designed dinner. Yu has provided a list of questions for discussion.
Five stars out of five.
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In accordance with FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the author free of charge. I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review. All they expect is an honest review of the work.