First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
1987. The Philippine government fights a total war against insurgency. The village of Iraya is militarised. The days are violent and the nights heavy with fireflies in the river where the dead are dumped. With her twelve-metre hair, Estrella, the Fish-Hair Woman, trawls corpses from the water that tastes of lemon grass. She falls in love with the Australian Tony McIntyre who disappears in the conflict. Ten years later, his son travels to Manila to find his father.
From the Philippines to Australia, Hawai’i, to evocations of colonial Spain, this transnational novel spins a dark, epic tale. Its storytelling is expansive, like the heart-
My journey into the depths of Asian Literature leads me back home with Filipino-Australian Merlinda Bobis’ Fish Hair Woman. The winner of the 2014 Philippine National Book Awards, the book seems a promising exploration of Filipino culture, traditions and society. I didn’t realize that the book won the Goodreads Most Underrated Book Award in 2013. It sure does sound very promising already.
The story follows two stories set in two different locations and two different time periods. The first story is set in a village named Iraya, which, according to the narrative, is roughly six hours from the capital of Manila. It was 1987, a year after the fall of the Marcos regime. Despite Marcos’ ouster, insurgency was still a national concern. The national government uses military force to stifle the insurgency, hence, the militarization of the fictional village or Iraya.
At Iraya, readers meet Estrella, the titular Fish-Hair Woman. With her Rapunzel-like hair – twelve-meter long – she fishes corpses thrown into a lemon grass-flavored river by insurgents (I guess) or soldiers who abuse their power (a possibility as well). Estrella’s story is related through flashbacks, hence, making the narrative jump through three time periods.
The current period, 1997, involves the story of Luke McIntyre who traveled from Australia to Manila after receiving an invitation from his estranged father who disappeared ten years earlier. He landed in Manila but to his disappointment, it wasn’t his father who met him at the airport. Rather, it was a man who presented himself as Luke’s father’s friend.
With two story lines (three if you include Estrella’s childhood), the narrative jumps to and fro the past and the present. The chapters are short but are heavily descriptive. The storytelling was superb, giving me some hints of magical realism. The writing is lyrical, and very vivid. I can already see through some symbolism embedded into the narrative. It also gave hints of mystery, fantasy and romance. I sure am very curious how Bobis tied all these together. At the moment, it does have my full attention as I await how Estrella’s and Luke’s stories converge. I know it will but it is interesting to know how.
How about you fellow reader? What book are you currently reading? I hope you are enjoying it in the safety and comfort of your homes. Have a great weekend everyone! Stay safe, stay home!