After becoming a widow, Rosie Lee devoted herself to her restaurant, Aunty Lee’s Delights, where she serves Singaporean home cooking and folksy wisdom in equal measure. But when one of her dinner guests turns up missing and a body is found washed up on a beach, Aunty Lee discovers another passion: solving murders. Aunty Lee’s Delights is a charming mystery about the many types of people and ideas coexisting in Singapore, and how to manage the clashes of culture and class that take place there. Read my First Look here.
This is a light little read full of cute witicisms and surprisingly nuanced cultural critique. Aunty Lee functions as the compassionate and curious heart at the center of a group of very different characters: fussy traditional wives, adventurous modern women, religious tourists, conceited ex-pats, gay men and women, uptight police, and the servant class of Singapore. Aunty Lee serves them all with spicy food, relaxing teas, homespun wisdom, and general compassion. Aunty Lee is the type of hero we don’t see too often – curious, caring, and capable.
“As far as Aunty Lee was concerned, people ought to go through the ideas they carried around in their heads as regularly as they turned out their store cupboards. No matter how wisely you shopped, there would be things in the depths that were past their expiration dates or gone damp and moldy—or that has been picked up on impulse and were no longer relevant.”
It can be difficult to decide where a book lands on representation when it is written by and for another culture than my own. I know nothing about Singapore or the people and cultures that weave together everyday life there. But the author, Ovidia Yu, is Sinagaporean. Aunty Lee’s Delights seems to purposefully grapple with cultural differences, and it feels as though Yu is trying to use Antuy Lee as a megaphone for tolerance and understanding. And to an ignorant reader like me, the whole thing came off as very, very sweet if not a bit shocking at times.
Ultimately, I don’t think I like series mysteries. I hadn’t read one since my Nancy Drew days, but in my grand project of diversified reading, I thought it was only right to try another one out as an adult. I liked almost everything about Yu’s novel, except the genre. When I read mysteries, I feel like everything is in sketch rather than vibrant color. Just not my kind of reading experience. BUT, if you do like mysteries, I think this one is probably going to charm you. Aunty Lee is a lovely character- a widowed busybody chef who solves mysteries- and the details of Singaporean culture and everyday life really add a meaningful novelty to the genre.
Scent Notes: hot peppers and pickled cucumbers, cardamom tea, and baby powder.