Stories in Catherine Lim's The Bondmaid

Throughout the novel, Han, the main character, directly and indirectly receives many stories -- stories of how woman first menstruated, how ghost lovers come together once a year, and how idiots become deified after death. Her mother tells her stories, and Chu tells her stories:

"Look at the poor wretch," said Chu, as she and Han watched Spitface help the Old One to a sitting position. She was in the mood for exultant judgment which passed easily from one poor wretch to another. "Did anybody ever tell you that his mother left him in the rubbish dump in a paper bag and the rubbish-collector heard his cries and picked him up?" The unloading of secret histories -- other people's only, for hers was kept intact in that tight compact chest under the neat starched blouse -- exhilarated her, and she went on to furnish yet more horrifying details. The rubbish-collector at first thought the baby was a monkey, not a human, so grotesque did it look, and was in time to save it from a marauding dog that kept snapping at the paper bag, smelling fresh blood. [136]

The "unloading of secret histories," we read, "exhilarated" Chu, and such, we assume, must be true for the author, too, since she tells us several "secret histories" that exist behind or under the surface of modern Singapore.

Some stories, like Chu's story of Spitface above, relate origins and others endings. Some, like those in Han's dreams, have a complex relation to the literal narrative.

[Some passages that discuss or exemplify stories and story-telling: pp. 45, 78, 109, 126-2, 165, 178-79, 261, 286, 341.]


Lim, Catherine. The Bondmaid. [1995] London: Oriel, 1997.

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Catherine Lim