Elsie Sze’s New Award-Winning Novel Ghost Cave: a Novel of Sarawak Is a Tale of Blood, Sweat, and Tears from a Land of Migrant Workers and Freedom Fighters

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Sarawak, the largest province of Malaysia on the island of Borneo, was ruled by an English family, the Brookes, also known as the White Rajahs, in the nineteenth century. Here is the thrilling tale of a Chinese migrant worker who took part in a rebellion against the Brooke regime, and of his descendant who fought in the communist guerrilla war against Malaysian and British troops over a hundred years later, and how their lives were linked by what transpired inside Ghost Cave.

Ghost Cave, winner of the inaugural Saphira Prize, transports the reader to another time, another place with the main focus on two compelling and devastating events in Sarawak history, the Chinese miners’ rebellion of 1857 and the communist guerrilla war of the 1960s.

In 1849, Liu Hon Min and his friend Lo Tai left China for Sarawak, Borneo, in search of fortune and a better life. They worked in the gold mines of Mau San, but became embroiled in a rebellion of the miners against the ruling Englishman James Brooke which ended in tragedy. Trapped by Brooke’s men inside a cave (later named Ghost Cave), Liu Hon Min was rescued by a native girl whom he later married. His newfound love and happiness were short-lived as misfortune struck again. A hundred years passed, and one of his descendants Tak Ming fought as a communist guerrilla in the jungles of Borneo against Malaysian and British troops. Ghost Cave was where the two men, over a century apart, were connected not just by bloodline but in an uncanny way by what happened inside the cave. All this came to light when Tak Ming’s granddaughter, a young woman from Canada, went to Sarawak to find material for her journalism program, and in so doing unraveled her family’s past.

“I believe in the spirits of our ancestors, who protect us from harm and whose primary concern is our welfare. Mostly, they are not seen, only felt by the sensitive among us. And, very occasionally, when these spirits choose to manifest themselves to the human eye, for reasons that are important to them, we call them ghosts.”
-- from Ghost Cave: a novel of Sarawak

Of the novel, author Elsie Sze says, “Ghost Cave talks of ghosts, yet it's not a ghost story in the traditional sense; rather it's a story of love transcending time and space, of bonding and reconciliation as the basis of the human condition." Even though the novel is not biographical, Sze’s father came from Sarawak. “If you want to find out about your roots, you have to go back to the birthplace of your parents. My father was born here (Sarawak), and that’s the reason I want to write a book about Sarawak.”

Biography of Elsie Sze

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Sze left for Canada at 22 to pursue graduate studies. She subsequently taught high school in Toronto, then moved to the United States. In her years in the States, she and her husband raised a family of three boys, and she worked as a librarian upon completing a master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Chicago. In 1987, she returned to Canada with her family. She was with the Toronto Public Library for nine years, during which time she took a summer workshop and a correspondence program in creative writing for three years with the renowned Humber School for Writers. In 2001, she gave up her job as librarian to devote her time to writing. Her first novel Hui Gui: a Chinese story was published in 2005, followed by The Heart of the Buddha in 2009.

Sze won the inaugural Saphira Prize for unpublished writing, launched by the Women in Publishing Society, Hong Kong, for her manuscript of Ghost Cave. The result was the publication of the novel Ghost Cave: a novel of Sarawak in 2014.


Ghost Cave is available on http://www.amazon.com, http://www.amazon.ca, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.indigo.ca and other major online bookstores worldwide.

For bulk order inquiries, send email to publisher Women in Publishing Society Hong Kong at wipshk(at)gmail(dot)com or contact Elsie Sze by Email.

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