A slightly different version of this review was published in The Star on 19th November, 2016
NOW THAT IT’S OVER
Author: O Thiam Chin
Publisher: Epigram Books
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.
Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. A more deserving writer, in my opinion, than the bookies’ favourite, Haruki Murakami.
(I think Paul Simon is another songwriter whose lyrics deserve such recognition. Who else? Katell Keineg; Leonard Cohen; Fleetfoxes (whoever writes their lyrics); most decidedly not Jon Anderson of Yes.)
Judith Kerr has received a lifetime achievement award from UK literary charity Book Trust.
This is the second time this prize has been awarded. The first honouree was author/illustrator Shirley Hughes.
Kerr is the author and illustrator best known for her picture books The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Mog series, as well the biographical trilogy that begins with the excellent When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
HELEN Oyeyemi’s stories never fail to surprise me. Just as some might expect certain kinds of characters, plots and themes from Asian authors, I have to admit that I tend to anticipate the shape and form of tales by African writers. A relatively new reader of Asian and African fiction, I still struggle with various preconceptions: Asian stories are inevitably and miserably tragic; African writing must reflect or be rooted in African life and culture. Complete nonsense, of course.Read More »