Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Friday, October 13, 2017


As an avid reader, I’m always keen to explore different genres of reading material, be it books or magazines. When I was introduced to Paul Callan - author of The Brigadier’s Daughter - by Dato’ Rosemarie Wee of Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, I had no inkling Paul was a published author of 3 novels.

I was pleasantly surprised when Paul emailed me to inform he actually left me a copy of his novel to be reviewed. The blurb on the back cover sounded intriguing from the get-go so I wasted no time in reading The Brigadier’s Daughter.

The story of Jin, a young Chinese boy with a penchant for art who became infatuated and fell hopelessly in love with Stephanie, a Eurasian girl and daughter of the titular brigadier was set in a small town in colonial era Malaya.

Recounted through a series of flashbacks, the poignant ‘coming of age’ and love story is interwoven with Jin’s present day circumstances as he grappled with his business and life challenges. I find Paul’s writing style pleasantly simple and makes for easy reading; each chapter rousing enough curiosity to spur readers like me fervently wondering if the star-crossed couple would find their happily-ever-after.

When I interviewed Paul for this book review, the author told me he penned The Brigadier’s Daughter to encourage more students especially teenagers and young adults to read. In the novel, Paul painstaking detailed Jin’s emotional state and feelings as an adolescent: his growing pains, his sexual awakening and constant yearning for Stephanie. Pertinent issues that should resonate with young readers and adults who may have forgotten their personal struggles dealing with puberty.

Paul’s extensive research on local history is evident in certain chapters of the book. His fascination with Malaysia and its people stemmed from his marriage to a Malaysian. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Paul Callan was a London-based businessman who turned to writing historical fiction of Southeast Asia.

According to Paul, “One of the great pleasures for me when writing is research.”
Todate, his three novels are The Dulang Washer (MPH, 2011), Shadows Beneath the Fronds (MPH, 2013), and The Brigadier’s Daughter (Epigram Books, 2017).

On his latest tome, Paul said: “Whenever I meet anybody new, I’d asked if they are from Johor. When I get a positive response, I’d expand by asking if they hail from Kluang. Alas, all those I met were too young to tell me anything about Kluang in 1957.”

Undeterred, Paul then made several trips to Kluang town where the story was set. “With the help of an acquaintance familiar with Kluang, and whom I acknowledge in the book, I met several elderly residents who could recall Merdeka Day vividly. It was these residents who told me Kluang had a stadium in 1957, and they readily shared how the whole town gathered there to celebrate Merdeka.”

Paul revealed they also told him how Indian estate workers were collectively driven to the stadium for the great event. “There was even a speaker system set up for everyone to hear the announcement of Merdeka. And yes, the party atmosphere included chendol being available.”

His research efforts are effortlessly interwoven into different parts of the book, in the form of anecdotes and nuggets of information. I particularly like Paul’s detailing of the erhu, a classic Chinese musical instrument and the preparation of Hainanese chicken rice. To understand these intriguing tidbits, you’d simply must read The Brigadier’s Daughter.

Paul Callan now divides his time between his homes in Kuala Lumpur and London. He’s currently writing his fourth novel. Now excuse me while I go hunt down his earlier books to tide me over.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Ah, the course of true love never did run smooth according to William Shakespeare. This timeless basis forms the crux of Nyonya Memoirs – a revolutionary interactive theatre performance being staged in Melaka until 19 July 2015.

Presented by The Hatten Group, this RM8million production is conceptualised to highlight and promote a deeper appreciation of Melaka’s Peranakan culture and heritage. Premiered in May this year, the star-studded show tells the fateful story of Bao Zhu (played by Dorothy Foo), a young Nyonya maiden whose relationship with Zhang Min (reprised by Evan Siau), a poor Baba was opposed by her prominent, well-heeled family.
An extravaganza of music, songs and satirical dialogue, this is one performance that literally keeps you on your toes. Right from the get-go as the audience trooped beyond the heavy curtains after the entrance, our attention was drawn to the life-like nostalgic setting. 

Of course, cameras were whipped out for instant snapshots (NO flash photography was allowed) as everyone ‘ooh-ed’ and ‘aah-ed’ over the artfully created ornate props: from a local tea stall and shop front to old-fashioned kitchen and family dining table found in a Nyonya home. 

When the member of the cast resplendent in her Nyonya get-up jumped up to exhort her lines, everyone was caught off-guard but it was part and parcel of the performance’s uniqueness. 
Instead of a restricted raised stage, we found ourselves walking right into the theatre set. Everyone just wandered around the replica of a town square, complete with old-school shops, a few street carts and mobile hawkers. It was slightly unnerving at first as we didn’t know what to expect, which direction to head for or where the play will be performed. Suffice to say, most of us were like a flock of lost sheep looking for the shepherd. 
Once the initial song and dance began around the ‘lawn’ area, we somehow managed to assemble in a semi-circle around the performers. Luckier members of the audience had stools to sit on but for the majority, it was standing room only.
As the love story between the two protagonists unfold, we had to segue towards the different stage sets. Some confusion ensued during intermission as we were barred from the more elaborate set-ups (understandable since those are costly to create) for photography. It would have been more effective for all parties concerned to have clear and proper signages put up, to inform members of the audience the permissible and forbidden areas.

Anyway, love ultimately conquers all and the touching tale wraps up with an elaborate wedding procession which takes place outside the event hall. The dialogue is a mixture of Mandarin, Malay and Chinese Hokkien dialect with English subtitles shown on various TV screen mounted around the theatre setting area.
Catch NYONYA MEMOIRS every Friday to Sunday at 4pm and 8pm at Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall. Tickets are priced at RM52 per adult for MyKad holders and RM26 - per child 7-15 years old (MyKad holder) and senior citizen (60 years old above). Non MyKad holders pay RM66 and RM33 respectively. For ticketing enquiries, call tel: +6 018 663 9696 or visit

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