Celebrated Taiwanese YA novelist Lin Man-chiu was invited to the London School of Economics on November 28 to discuss the themes behind her book “The Ventriloquist’s Daughter“ - her first work to be translated into English. She was joined in discussion with translator of the novel & British Museum Curator Helen Wang whilst the event was chaired by LSE Professor Fang-long Shih
Lin Man-chiu said that the story of the novel was inspired by her own childhood, and in turn issues of gender discrimination and familial relationships & reconciliation. “The Ventriloquist’s Daughter“ tells the story that after the tragic death of Liur’s mother, her father, a thwarted artist working as a doctor in the family hospital, is overcome with grief. He goes to study in America, leaving six-year-old Liur in the care of her grandparents, promising to return with a special doll for her. But instead of studying, her father travels to the Andes, where he meets a mysterious ventriloquist who takes him as a pupil. Five years later, he returns home, bringing with him one of the ventriloquist’s dolls. But it is not a present for Liur; instead, it becomes a menacing presence in the house, causing strife within the family. After observing her father performing strange rituals with the doll, Liur must find a way to defeat her demons – real or imagined.
Lin Man-chiu said in the discussion that this novel is based on her own childhood experience. Society and family at that time were deeply influenced by traditional patriarchal values, and Lin Man-chiu felt that her parents wanted a son so much, that they paid little attention to her and her six sisters. By writing this book, Lin Man-chiu hoped to present the child's longing for a parents' love, and the fear of being replaced. She also said that by writing this book, it also allowed her to confront the memories and emotions from her childhood.
Helen Wang added that there are stereotypes and expectations for different genders in Western society. Alongside Lin Man-chiu's work reflecting gender and social structure however, she also said that it is a brilliant psychological suspense novel.
Lin Man-chiu and Helen Wang also read the fragments in the book "The Ventriloquist’s Daughter" in both English and Chinese.
Lin Man-chiu is an award-winning Taiwanese author who has published a number of successful YA novels and non-fiction titles. In 2003 and 2017 she received the 'Golden Tripod' award for children's fiction, and the 'Good Books Everyone Can Read' award for the best children's book of 2010, and in August 2018 was invited to participate in the Edinburgh International Book Festival.