Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim REVIEW

Roselle Lim's sophomore novel is ever the tasty delight.

Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
Image from Book Cover

Be true to yourself and to who you are. That is the key to gaining control of your life. If you find your missing thread, you find yourself.

I was lucky enough to be able to review Roselle Lim’s debut novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, last year. In a world where we are constantly moved by the hustle and bustle of things, it’s rare to find a book that makes you want to stop and stand still, while you feast into its world with fervour. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was such a book, and it was on my mind even while I was reading Lim’s sophomore effort.

To Lim’s credit, she hasn’t written herself into a rut like some genre writers have, where each book is a slight variation on its former, sticking clearly to a formula that has worked so well before. Vanessa and Natalie are very different women, and their journeys, while filled with learning and growth, aren’t the same.

Vanessa has been blessed (or cursed in her words) with the gift of clairvoyance. From when she was three years old, she was able to predict the future. But her gift remained largely beyond her control, compelling her to speak of the future even if she would rather not say anything. When the prediction mill forces her to deliver a fortune during her cousin’s engagement, Vanessa, who has been running away from this part of herself her entire life, decides that maybe it’s time to get things under control.

As we kissed, translucent flecks of gold leaf arose from our skin. The fragile wisps took flight, changing their shape into petals before vanishing into the ether.

This is where her Aunt Evelyn comes in, who is a clairvoyant much like herself, but unlike Vanessa, has mastered her gift. They travel to Paris together, since Evelyn has just opened a tea shop over there, and Vanessa embarks on training sessions with Evelyn, while also enjoying the joys that Paris has to offer. I have been to Paris before; it was a short stop-over and we only had time to visit the Eiffel Tower (which took a few hours by the way), but I lament that I never got to see it the way Vanessa did. The sights, the sounds, the food…especially the food.

Lim has proven herself to be quite the gustatory provocateur – in the sense that she provokes my taste buds into a joyous dance, only to realise I don’t have the culinary delights available to match these descriptions. Food remains as central to her writing as ever, which I appreciate, because the best way to introduce a setting is to get us involved in the food the culture has to offer. I can’t pronounce any of those words (they are French and I would butcher them – much like Vanessa I would prefer not to try), but everything sounds delightful and oh so delicious.

As always, I enjoy the magical realism that colours her novels. In her hands, kisses sound transcendent, moments gather together like beautiful blue butterflies – real life becomes art. I appreciate every slice, every layer of what she’s built, and relate so much to Vanessa’s search and desire for love, even when she is told that isn’t a possibility.

Evelyn and Vanessa are in the clairvoyant business, they spill what fate has in store, yet Lim wants to remind us that fate is never an immovable thing. Your fate can be decided for you, by your parents, by the powers that be, by difficult choices, but you mustn’t be afraid to chase happiness when possible. We must stop dying martyred lives of obligation – be brave, take risks, take a leap of faith. Who knows what awaits you around the corner?

Review copy provided.

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Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
Roselle Lim's writing remains a feast for the literary palette, and she delivers quite a feast once again with her sophomore novel.