Review: Water Into Wine by Joyce Chng

WaterintoWine_300WATER INTO WINE

By Joyce Chng

Publisher: Annorlunda Books, ebook

[Some minor spoilers ahead]

Xin inherits a vineyard and decides to embark on a new life (and career), packing up and moving, with her mother and children, to Tertullian VI.

I found the story an easy read, and I was eager to turn its virtual pages as I found Xin an interesting, intriguing character, and I was eager to find out more about her … him?

Sadly, when the book ended I still had lots of questions about the character. Read More »

Review: Now That It’s Over by O Thiam Chin

A slightly different version of this review was published in The Star on 19th November, 2016


Author: O Thiam Chin

Publisher: Epigram Books

ISBN: 978-9814757287

TWO Singaporean couples spend Christmas on the island of Phuket in 2004 in O Thiam Chin’s award winning novel Now That It’s Over.

The time and the place is, of course significant: On Boxing Day of that year, a massive earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean, triggering a series of tsunamis that killed over 200 thousand people and caused extensive infra structural damage in some 14 countries.

The two couples in question are of course affected by the natural disaster, and this is not a spoiler as I doubt even the most ignorant of readers could be oblivious to the tragedy that shook the world 12 years ago. Indeed, the use of what has been called the world’s deadliest tsunami in recorded history as a story setting was what piqued my interest in this novel initially, even before it was named winner of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015.

I imagined that Now That It’s Over would be a heart-wrenching study in human loss and suffering; an examination of the fragility of the flesh versus the astounding strength of the spirit. I anticipated life-and-death decisions that forced O’s characters to face truths they had hitherto managed to deny and side-step thanks to their busy and orderly Singaporean lives. I hoped for a story about revelation, transformation and redemption.

I expected too much.Read More »

Interview: Isa Kamari

First published on 14th January, 2014 in The Star

isa-kamariIN mid-2013, Silverfish Books published three books by Singaporean author Isa Kamari. These novels, A Song of the WindRawa and 1819, were originally written and published in Malay (Memeluk Gerhana, Rawa and Duka Tuan Bertakhta), and the Silverfish editions were translated by editor and publisher Raman Krishnan (Song, co-translated with Sukmawati Sirat).

All three books are set in Singapore: 1819, which focuses on the relationship between Sir Stadford Raffles and the Muslim saint Habib Nuh, depicts the island at a time usually described (in much less lively and colourful detail) in text books; while readers under 50 would find it hard to picture the Singapore (of the 1950s, 60s and 70s) portrayed in Song and Rawa.Read More »

Book Review: A Song of the Wind by Isa Kamari

a song of the windFirst published on 8th September, 2013 in The Star

FINALLY, a local (regional) coming-of-age story teenagers can really sink their teeth into!

A Song Of The Wind by Isa Kamari probably wasn’t written for teenagers, but this book, translated by Sukmawati Sirat and R Krishnan, and recently published by Silverfish Books, is just the sort of “young adult” book I’ve been waiting to see on Malaysian bookshelves.

It’s set in Singapore, spanning the 1960s to 1980s, and tells the story of Ilham, the eldest of four children who live in Kampung Tawakala, a village near the Brown Hill cemetery, which still exists although it closed in the 70s – there’s even a Bukit Brown MRT stop.Read More »