editor's choice




We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and yet most of us do, particularly in this age of having to buy online, without flicking through pages or sniffing paper. In the case of Song, Michelle Jana Chan’s acclaimed novel, published in paperback this month by Unbound, we’re pleased to say that it’s beautiful both inside and out.

In many ways, Song is an odyssey, an epic journey made by the young eponymous hero, from his village in nineteenth-century China, where there are no prospects, to the better, greater world that he’s heard tales of, across the oceans. But Guiana, like the London of folklore, does not have streets paved with gold, and Song finds himself trapped in a strange, different world. But he’s resourceful, and this is just the beginning of his epic story.

Chan’s beautiful, at times lyrical use of language brings Song’s journey to life, evoking the worlds he encounters and the characters who inform them, with an authenticity that’s mesmerising. Song himself is a well-drawn character and his experiences are moving, distressing, violent, joyous – and familiar to anyone whose family has, at some point in its history, trodden a similar path across the seas to seemingly better lands.

We’re lucky enough to be seeing a lot of high-quality literature at the moment, particularly highlighting, and celebrating, the immigrant experience. Song joins this canon. We highly recommend it.


Song | Michelle Jana Chan | Unbound

| pb | £9.99 | 18 March 2021 | hardback and ebook also available

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher for sending a review copy and the above jacket image. All views expressed are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other great reviewers on the tour.

See also: Anita Nair’s Bangalore detective Borei Gowda‘;’Michael Connelly’s epic hero, Mickey Haller‘;‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Damian Barr’s slice of South Africa’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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