There’s a surreal bent to many of the stories in Lake Like a Mirror: everyday logic seems to slip, as if in a dream. It can be just an uncanny shiver ... But some stories go further, sneaking towards magical realism ... the meaning or metaphorical thrust of her work can be hard to grasp, but her writing is beguiling and seasoned with striking imagery ... Ho allows different parts of her stories to hang together lightly, and they may chime more easily for readers with knowledge of Malaysian culture. For those without it, the collection provides a fascinating glimpse, not least into the repressive nature of a strictly Muslim society ... Despite the distilled strangeness of much of Ho’s prose, spending so much time with lethargic, disengaged protagonists can ultimately prove enervating.
Lake Like a Mirror is more evidence, if more were needed, that Chinese-language literature is thriving in Southeast Asia. Ho writes free from the censorship that prevails in mainland China but also behind a linguistic veil that must to at least some extent shield her from the petty tyrannies that can sometimes be imposed by English and the internationalism that comes with it, a veil that is only drawn back for us readers by the efforts of her able translator Natascha Bruce.
Gloomy circumstances do drift and fluctuate like our weather in its acute crisis and within those, the women slip. Ho Sok Fong makes us slip with them. Or do we simply relate? ... I needed to read each story in Ho Sok Fong’s collection several times. I wasn’t able to fully follow some of the storylines immediately, I was a bit confused here and there, also a bit underwhelmed with not too much happening, a bit overwhelmed with the metaphorical descriptions of the emotional lives of her characters. Ho Sok Fong didn’t turn the oppression of her female characters into a thrilling adventure.