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.
I expected too much.Read More »
I will be reviewing O Thiam Chin’s novel, Now That It’s Over (winner of Epigram Books’s inaugural Fiction Prize), for The Star.
Received the pdf ages ago, but the review will be delayed because converting the document to epub for my Kindle messed up the layout.
The printed book arrived today (thank you, Epigram) and so I can resume reading it.
The Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA) is a joint initiative between the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) and Scholastic Asia that aims to promote Asian experiences and expression in creative and innovative forms.
This award recognises writers of Asian origin whose manuscripts have the potential to share uniquely Asian experiences of life, spirit, and thinking with the rest of the world.
The SABA is held every two years and the closing date for submissions for the next cycle (SABA 2018) is on 22nd December, 2017. (Download the rules & regulaions and entry form.)
The winner of the prize wins SGD10,000. In addition, his/her manuscript, along with four other shortlisted entries, will be considered for publication by Scholastic Malaysia.
This year saw the publication of books by the winner of SABA 2014, Sophia Lee, and two of the shortlisted authors from that award cycle, Catherine Torres and Xie Shi Min.
Their books are now available in selected bookstores in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Read More »
First published on 14th January, 2014 in The Star
IN mid-2013, Silverfish Books published three books by Singaporean author Isa Kamari. These novels, A Song of the Wind, Rawa 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 »
First 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 »