Singapore Love Stories by Verena Tay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I might have been a little too distracted to enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. Similar in concept to LOVE IN PENANG, Singapore Love Stories is an anthology of love stories set in Singapore. The themes and stories are a little darker, and a lot grittier, though.
The anthology opens with the brilliant A Poor Man by Audrey Chin, which immerses you in the life of a poor immigrant Indian construction worker in rich, cosmopolitan Singapore. Written in epistolary style, the richness of the tone and voice is the first thing that struck me. A reader unfamiliar with the tone and style of speaking of the region would struggle with the non-standard grammar and the strange, sometimes awkward style of the text, but for me, reading it felt like having the person stand beside me and tell his story.
A Bad Decision by Damyanti Biswas was another one I quite liked, though the ending felt a little too open-ended to me. I could also be a little biased on this one because I've read quite a few of Biswas' work before.
At first, I didn't really think much of Clarissa Goenawan's The Things We Hide . The story jumps between present and past, and there's a ghost. Right. But as a whole, it's beautifully and simply told, with very soft, gentle undertones to the harsh truths that are revealed.
The Gardener by Raelee Chapman is another one that caught my attention with its voice and tone--whilst not as impactful as A Poor Man, it was still delightful to the ear.
I cannot fail to mention Wan Phing Lim. The Ruby Case is amusing and vividly told in Lim's distinctive style. I'm not sure if the police work that way in Singapore, but who knows?
Space, Time and Chicken Rice by Kane Wheatley-Holder is another piece that I didn't quite appreciate--until it suddenly became sci-fi. I did not expect the ending at all. But it was very aww-inducing.
One of my favourites of this anthology has to be Melanie Lee's ATM Agony Aunt, which is basically a girl asking relationship advice from the quotes provided by the ATM machine. It's also very Singaporean in sound, which I like.
S. Mickey Lin closed off the anthology with Merlion's Magic, which I initially really liked because woohoo! magic! Alternate magical Singapore history! And then the twist in the end came (no spoilers) and I was all what. =.=
But at any rate, Singapore Love Stories is as vibrant and eclectic as its inhabitants. The stories cover both new love and old, uncertain relationships, filial love and loss, long-distant relationships and longing. The recurring themes of divorce and affairs do make me wonder about the state of love and marriage in Singapore, though.
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