I had the great pleasure of meeting Shahriza a few weeks ago when I was invited over to his house in P.J. to pick up a copy of his book, Legacy, after a mutual friend had put us in touch.
His wife, Sermsuk, totally seduced me with the Thai dishes she had prepared for lunch. And when Shahriza joined us, these felt like friends I'd always known. We found a lot of common ground talking about language teaching and curriculum design and shaking our heads at the state of the English language in Malaysia. And we talked books of course. Shah may be a little frail but he has such an engagingly wicked twinkle in his eyes, and very sharp intellect.
(I really look forward to meeting up with them both again and I'm hoping, fingers crossed, to get him along to readings@seksan's soon so that some of you have the chance to meet him too.)
The Legacy (published - very handsomely! - in Singapore by Editions Didier Millet) is a large, historical novel set in Perak between 1875 when British resident James W.W. Birch is killed, and Merdeka in 1957. But this is no dry tome as it weaves in incidents from Shahriza's own family history which came to him in the form of stories told by his parents and grandparents. This is the blurb :
After Perak Resident James Birch is murdered in 1875, his pocket watch comes into the possession of Mastura, a member of the Perak royal family and an intimate friend of the late Resident. Mastura, devastated by his death, decides to keep the watch as a talisman against the uncertain times ahead, vowing to return it one day. This novel is the story of Mastura and her descendents, as they make their way through 80 tumultuous years of colonised Malaya until, with Merdeka, the talisman can finally be returned with honour. It is a story of courage, fortitude, faith, and love.The novel is reviewed here by Sivamani Rasiah who declares that it :
... will touch a collective Malaysian chord.You can read an extract from it on Victoria Institution's website (it's nice the school is so proud of its literary heritage!).
James Hipkiss also wrote an excellent article about the author and novel which appeared in April in the New Straits Times. He says that Shahriza:
... writes the most beautiful English, and tells a fascinating story.I really look forward to reading it.