REVIEW: Song, Michelle Jana Chan #BLOGTOUR

Friday, 19 March 2021

Song is just a boy when he sets out from Lishui village in China. Brimming with courage and ambition, he leaves behind his impoverished broken family, hoping he’ll make his fortune and return home. Chasing tales of sugarcane, rubber and gold, Song embarks upon a perilous voyage across the oceans to the British colony of Guiana, but once there he discovers riches are not so easy to come by and he is forced into labouring as an indentured plantation worker.

This is only the beginning of Song’s remarkable life, but as he finds himself between places and between peoples, and increasingly aware that the circumstances of birth carry more weight than accomplishments or good deeds, Song fears he may live as an outsider forever.

This beautifully written and evocative story spans nearly half a century and half the globe, and though it is set in another century, Song’s story of emigration and the quest for an opportunity to improve his life is timeless.

When I found out this book was a debut, I nearly wept. First novels always have issues — pacing, tone, writing — but not this one. To say that Michelle Jana Chan has a way with words would surely be the understatement of the century. 

After-all, her rich and oh-so-vivid novel, Song, comes alive on the page; its readers can taste the salt in the air and the fish; hear the birds; feel the humid downpours of the jungle rain. Indeed, there's one scene, rather early on in the novel that features a waterfall, and I will surely imagine the exhilaration of the rushing water for the rest of my life. 

Because of all this and so much more, the novel is a masterful rendering of an epic historical tale: one that follows the titular Song, as he leaves his flood-ruined village in China and navigates his way to British Guiana. It is a perilous journey (one that partially mirrors one that Chan's paternal family took in the mid-1800s), insanely large in both scale and scope, as the child-then-young-man traverses continents and years to reach his startling destination. 

Beautifully drawn, the readers root for Song to survive against all odds. Curious and intelligent and kind, his eager eyes are the windows to this world: allowing its readers to get to know a cast of characters that really do number a village. As the years move forward, Song's adult personality becomes a tapestry of all the people he has ever known — one that surely reflects our own growth, and opens our eyes to the man he eventually becomes. 

Full of vivid renderings of Song's fascinating life, this is not a book to be missed.  

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Anne Cater and Unbound for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Head on over to for this book, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

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