Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse

True Historical Family Saga

When Cambridge educated lawyer Helen Tse decided to give up her career to go back to her roots and open up a Chinese restaurant with her two sisters, her elders thought she was nuts. Her grandmother and mother work hard so that Helen and her sister's could all get good educations and not have the worries and work that a restaurant owner has. Lily, her grandmother and Mabel, her mother should know, they both had owned restaurants.

Before deciding to open the restaurant, Helen decided to take a journey back in time to discover her family history. Her great grandfather had a soy sauce business in China. He moved his family from a poor country village to the hustle and bustle of city life in Hong Kong. Not long after he died and the family had to find a way to make survive. Lily, just a child herself takes a job as an amah for a British family. An amah takes care of children.

Lily eventually married and had children herself, but her husband left her. She continued as an amah while her mother took care of her children. She befriends the family she was working for and got an invitation to move with them to England. This invitation didn't include her children, so what was she to do? What would you do?

I won't tell you anymore for risk of spoilers.

When I first read the description of the book it intrigued me but at the same time had the potential to be saccharin sweet. This was not the case. This a true multi generational family saga that is not to be missed. It got off to a bit of a slow start but after a short while, Helen Tse had me turning the pages until the end. This is an inspiring story that is not syrupy sweet.


Thanks to St. Martin's Press send my a copy of this book!


  1. I'm obsessed with generational sagas...this one has been on my wishlist for a couple months now. Thanks for the review -- I'll have to bump it up on the list now!

  2. I want to read this one. It was unfortunately one of the books that had to go back to the library this week, but I will get it back out again soon.

  3. Michelle, I hope you enjoy it when you get a chance to read it.


    I know how many library books you had out, so I'm not surpised that it was one of the ones you returned. LOL!

    Seriously, one you get past the first 30 or so pages it's a quick read.