Book Launch: All the Little Children

It's a dream moment for every author - the book launch of their debut novel. Mine was hosted by the mighty Kinokuniya at their flagship store on Singapore's Orchard Road - the equivalent of Oxford Street or Fifth Avenue - so an exciting place to introduce my book to the world.

From my spot behind the podium, it felt a bit like a wedding as I spotted friends old and new in the crowd. I was particularly delighted to see so many fellow authors from the Singapore Writers Group, as this inspiring bunch have been staunch companions on the journey to publication.

Likewise, my "Brownies" - a critique group that emerged from a short Curtis Brown course at the Singapore Writers Festival in 2013 - were out in force. Another writer friend, the Bridport-prize winner Elaine Chiew, brilliantly compered the event.

Maybe I'm not very good at this book marketing business, but the event for me was more of a personal milestone than an opportunity to sell units - though I'm grateful to everyone who went home with a green and orange cover inside a linen tote! Several people bought a whole stack for Christmas presents, which I think is excellent planning.

People often ask what is the hardest part of writing a novel and I say "not stopping". There are so many logical reasons to stop, especially that first novel. It feels like you're running down a dark tunnel with no idea if there's a light at the end. It's an act of blind faith. I've been to so many book launches and readings and signings over the years, wondering how you get to be the one behind the table. Turns out that the hardest part is also the simplest - you don't stop writing.

What to read... in Singapore

People very often ask for recommendations of books to read while in Singapore. Here are my top ten titles to prepare you for life in the Garden City.

And if I've left you wanting more, check out Singapore's vibrant poetry scene, especially my personal favourite, Cyril Wong.

Review: We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lionel Shriver

It's hard to write a review for a book that could easily support a thesis.

This novel is a rare example of both form and content being raised to the highest level, as well as a conclusion that is inevitable but shocking. It's extraordinary in its ability to trigger both revulsion and sympathy, and leave you feeling for the characters long after the pages have turned.

I gave this novel 5* on Goodreads, where you can follow my reviews or author page

Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal

In this brilliantly-observed novel, the main character reminds me very much of her home city of London; Nikki embodies its complex blend of cultures, its tradition and modernity, conformity and subversion, warmth and conflict.

When Nikki volunteers to run a writing class at a local gurdwara, she becomes our guide to Southall, where we meet a group of barely-literate women who quickly reveal a shared passion and talent for story-telling. Their tales are both erotic and risky, given the social tensions at play within their Sikh Punjabi community.

The novel is packed full of lifelike characters who are drawn with warm-hearted (and sometimes wicked) wit. By turns touching and saucy, with a suspense to raise the stakes, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is a layered and satisfying read.

But I may never feel the same way about ghee.


Follow my reviews or author page on Goodreads:

Now That It's Over, O Thiam Chin

"During the Christmas holidays in 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggers a tsunami that devastates fourteen countries. Two couples from Singapore are vacationing in Phuket when the tsunami strikes."

Beautifully structured and paced tale of two couples caught up in the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004; their minor personal tragedies revealed by the major disaster. Deserving winner of the inaugural Epigram prize, Singapore's richest literary award.

I gave this novel a 4* rating on Goodreads

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson

If the previous, companion novel Life After Life is about, well, life... then A God In Ruins is about death. Melancholy pervades the many overlapping stories of four generations of the Todd family. Atkinson's command of structure allows us to move around in time to span almost a century of Teddy Todd's life; but we return again and again to WW2, to Teddy's role in Bomber Command, with the circular narrative (plus layer upon layer of imagery and motifs) delivering the same sense of inevitability as the central plot device of rebirth in Life After Life. Why? Why circle around one core experience of an unexceptional (for those swept into WW2) man's life? It's not simply a gimmicky plot device, surely? No, Atkinson has a point to make and saves it for the closing pages, when her writing is breath-taking (literally, I held my breath for about four pages) and beautiful and furious.