Once We Were There by Bernice Chauly
Subjects: Fiction, Malaysia
Publisher: Epigram Books
Paperback, 368 pages
Journalist Delonix Regia chances upon the cultured and irresistible Omar amidst the upheaval of the Reformasi movement in Kuala Lumpur. As the city roils around them, they find solace in love, marriage, and then parenthood. But when their two-year-old daughter Alba is kidnapped, Del must confront the terrible secret of a city where babies are sold and girls trafficked. By turns heart-breaking and suspenseful, Once We Were There is a debut novel of profound insight. It is Bernice Chauly at her very best.
“An exhilarating fiction with a breathless, breakneck pace, like the new Malaysia it lovingly and bitingly tells on, with corrupt, idealistic, greedy, confused, identifiably Malaysian ordinary-native-citizens-politicians-power-monger-dispossessed-resistant characters to usher in a generational shift in sensibility. A must read for all who track Malaysian literature into the 21st century.
– Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces, American Book Award winner
“A love song to thwarted motherhood and the blunted dreams of the Reformasi movement, Once We Were There is as Malaysian as teh tarik–sweet, dark and a jolt to the senses.”
– Mei Fong, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment
“Once We Were There is an exhilarating novel, capturing a Malaysia rarely seen in literature, of late 90s political activism and of KL's kaleidoscopic counter-cultures. Chauly also writes so wisely about love, injustice and profound loss, and how the human spirit endures and finds the strength to go on.”
– Susan Barker, author of The Incarnations
“Once We Were There is a timely and important novel. First it plunges the reader into the social, cultural and sexual environment of KL at the turn of the millennium. Then it tells a story which is both heartbreaking and gripping, and deftly illustrates the inextricability of the personal and the political.”
– James Scudamore, Somerset Maugham Award-winning author of The Amnesia Clinic
About the author:
Bernice Chauly is the award-winning author of five books of poetry and prose; going there and coming back (1997), The Book of Sins (2008), Lost in KL (2008), Growing Up With Ghosts (2011) and Onkalo (2013, “Direct, honest and powerful” —JM Coetzee). Born in George Town, Penang to Chinese-Punjabi teachers, she read Education and English Literature in Canada as a government scholar. She was an Honorary Fellow at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) in 2014, has served as Festival Director of the George Town Literary Festival since 2011, and currently lectures at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC). She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her two daughters.