Title: Short Soup
Author: Coleen Kwan
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ || 2.0
The concept of this novella was reeled me in long before one of my friends recommended that I read this book, and while in theory I enjoyed this novel, practice is a beast of different nature.
Short Soup is a novella that follows two childhood friends, Dion Chan and Toni Lau, as they reconnect following Toni’s divorce from a cheating husband. Dion’s been in love with Toni for years and never found a good way to tell her, but now that she’s back and he’s taking over their parents’ jointly owned restaurant, he’s determined not to let her go, especially now that scumbag Nick is out of the picture. But there are things more pressing than opportunity and timing keeping them apart––Toni’s life is in Sydney now, Dion’s father is hard to please, while Toni’s baba is terrified that Toni will distract Dion and leave him heartbroken again. Together, they must navigate not only their attraction for each other, but also food, their futures, and family expectations.
All in all, a concept I thoroughly approve of. Food is one of the backbones of Chinse culture, so much so that the joke often is that we can never hang out as a group without making it a Food Extravaganza. Food is often the thing that ties us to our parents, our childhoods, our heritages, and so food as the basis for romance is one of the cutest, most intimate concepts.
Only man, it really didn’t deliver.
I hate giving poor reviews to books written by marginalised authors about marginalised characters whose marginality is not the sole focus of the story. Toni and Dion are never reduced to their heritage, and they are allowed to exist as romantic leads, which is––let’s be really honest––not something that most romance writers are capable of doing well. So that in and of itself endeared me to the novel, but it’s really hard to look past the writing, which could have done with another two rounds of editing, and the awkwardness between the main characters, and the complete lack of subtlety of the narrative itself, which, to be fair may be a problem of the genre itself and not necessarily of the book. The language of sexual attraction is often embarrassingly awkward when not done well, and this…
I had to put the book down a few times because of secondhand embarrassment, and it’s not because I’m a prude. The ending felt so trite, and the chemistry between the characters felt so forced and inorganic, as if their only connection was the plot and not any real attraction of their own. Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t great either. It’s a cute, short read if you’re in the mood, but not one I’ll be revisiting.