Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by The Millions, CrimeReads, HelloGiggles, and The EveryGirl
“A dark, delicious tale that will creep its way into your brain and leave you examining your own soul for signs of moral rot. I downed it in one greedy shot.” —Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. the World
“Tiffany Tsao’s visceral debut…reads a bit like Crazy Rich Asians if the book began with familicide instead of romance. . . Why not start off the new year with the perfect tear-it-all-down read?” —CrimeReads
In this riveting tale about the secrets and betrayals that can accompany exorbitant wealth, two sisters from a Chinese-Indonesian family grapple with the past after one of them poisons their entire family.
Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.
As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?
Traveling from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the most spectacular shows at Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply evocative novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire—and also bring it crashing down.
Tsao (The Oddfits) cannily pulls back the gilded surface from a wealthy Indonesian family, revealing a rotten core. The novel opens in the aftermath of an extravagant birthday party for the Sulinado family patriarch, during which a young woman, Estella, has poisoned her entire extended family. The only survivor, Estella's sister Gwendolyn, narrates the events leading up to the mass murder from her hospital bed, where she lies in a comatose state. These include the disastrous devolution of Estella's brief marriage, as well as the sisters' recent attempts to reconnect in the U.S. with a fun-loving aunt whom they had believed, until recently, to be dead. The sisters share a close bond, though each successive revelation about how their morally corrupt family intervened in these personal affairs drives a wedge further between them. The plot takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, the narrative unfolds in a manner that's both suspenseful and creepily claustrophobic. The novel also prompts readers to consider the cultural relativism of stereotypes, contrasting outsider perceptions of those with Chinese heritage in both Indonesia and the U.S. Tsao depicts a family whose fabulous wealth and privilege not only blind them to the needs of others but also engender cruelty and self-destruction. This is a bold and dramatic portrayal of characters on the cusp of an impossible choice between complicit self-preservation and total annihilation.
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Who is responsible for the massacre?
Gwendolyn, or Doll, shares with us her time in a coma after her sister Estella poisons her entire family and friends at a party for their Opa, or grandfather, who is suffering from Alzheimers. Gwendolyn is the only surviving member of this tragedy. While she is hospitalized, her body can’t function but her mind is active trying to retrace what possibly could have happened to cause her sister to commit such a crime.
The family is Indonesian, of Chinese descent, and extraordinarily wealthy by any standards. Gwendolyn and Estella have been raised wanting for nothing. They travel in first class, stay in the finest hotels, attend college abroad, and eventually work for the family business. Estella marries a man who is initially emotionally abusive, but eventually morphs into physical abuse, and then death. Gwendolyn is married to her business Bagatelle, creating unusual jewelry and adornments for women.
I was already a fan of Tiffany Tsao’s work before reading this, as I’ve read both books in her Oddfit series. This is a complete detour from The Oddfits, but it is a good departure. I loved how she carefully unraveled the story of Estella and Gwendolyn, how it was to be Chinese-Indonesian, the dynamics of running a business in rather corrupt Indonesia and the eventual toll it takes on everyone. There are surprises throughout this novel, and it was such a pleasure to read. Tsao is a magnificent writer.
This review will be posted at BookwormishMe.com on 7 Jan 2020 .