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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Ventriloquist's Daughter (The)
by Lin Man-Chiu
Age Range: 12+
After the tragic death of Luir’s mother, her father, a doctor working in the family hospital, is overcome with grief. He has always been something of a dreamer, hating the constraints his family have put upon him feeling stifled, yet powerless to do anything about it. After his wife’s death he goes to study in America, leaving six-year-old Luir in the care of his parents, promising to return with a special doll for her. However, instead of studying, Luir’s father goes off travelling finally reaching the Andes, where he meets a mysterious ventriloquist who takes him on as a pupil.
Five years later, he returns home, bringing with him one of the ventriloquist’s dolls. It is not a present for Luir; instead, ‘Carola’ as it is called, becomes a menacing presence in the house, causing strife within the family. Luir cuts a lonely figure living in a house with a remote grandmother, who appear distant and unloving, and a complicated relationship with her ‘Baba’ where communication is through the ventriloquist’s doll making Luir increasingly paranoid and afraid. Somehow Luir must find a way to defeat her demons – real or imagined.
Lin Man-Chiu, a well-known and award-winning author in Taiwan, has created a sparkling and chilling novel, excellently translated by award-winning translator Helen Wang. It exudes atmosphere from the very first page continuing right throughout the novel. The reader is often not quite sure what to expect, or indeed, what to believe because the suspense is so cleverly interwoven into the story. As the protagonist must distinguish between fantasy and reality so too must the reader.
The Ventriloquist’s Daughter was longlisted for the 2014 ‘Found in Translation Award’ and subsequently selected for the Found in Translation Anthology.