In honour of National Day, local novelist Lisa Beazley shares 13 of her favourite novels by Singapore authors
Between National Day and the recent #BuySingLit movement, there’s no better time to snatch up a homegrown read. I suggest heading to your local bookstore and browsing the National Day table, which is sure to be piled high with a plethora of local lit. To whet your appetite, here are a cool baker’s dozen of the hottest titles by local authors – expat and local alike – who call this Little Red Dot home.
Lead image by National Book Store via Facebook
Familiarize yourself with this author and founder of the Singapore Writers Group before her already buzzed-about thriller, The Flower Girls, comes out in January. In The Taken, In a Durham hotel at dawn, celebrated preacher Tristan Snow is murdered as he prays. None of the other guests – not even his daughter, his wife, or her sister – saw or heard anything. But then again, they all had a motive for murder.Detective Inspector Erica Martin is confronted by secrets and lies, lost in a case where nothing is what it seems.
Image by Goodreads
There’s still time to power through the first in this delightful trilogy before you see the much anticipated film later this month. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the outrageously funny novel centers on three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend home to Singapore.
Image by UrbanMoms
Written for ages 10 and up, this Young Adult book is the first in a trilogy that celebrates the wisdom and beauty of Asia. Min Rui and Chloe are on a perilous journey home through the strange lands of the Island in the Caldera, where they face ferocious tree dragons, stinky giants, and worse. They must be braver than they thought possible to survive their perilous journey.
Image by Ambassador Kate via The Island In The Caldera’s Facebook page
Jo Furniss is a recently departed expat (and occasional Sassy Mama contributor!), but this follow up to her best-selling All The Little Children is set in Singapore and sure to be an international hit. Amanda moved halfway around the world to be with the man she loves. Although expat life in Singapore can be difficult, Edward is a dream husband and a doting father to his teenage daughter, Josie. But when their maid dies in an apparent suicide – and Amanda discovers the woman was pregnant and hiding a stash of drugs prescribed to Edward—she can’t help but wonder if her perfect husband has a fatal flaw.
Norasid’s debut novel has been described as “impressive and confident.” Ria, a young medusa, accidentally turns an entire village into stone and flees to an underground settlement for protection. Instead, she becomes its gatekeeper, protecting the city from threats — human or otherwise. After decades in solitude, a man appears at the gate and the two strike up a friendship. The problem is, this friendship sparks a chain of events that will throw the city she’s sworn to protect and its inhabitants into imminent danger.
Image by Epigram Books
This young author has been widely lauded as a talent to watch, and a read of his debut novel will tell you why. Kevin is a young man without a soul, holidaying in Tokyo; Mr Five, the enigmatic kappa, is the man he so happens to meet. Little does Kevin know that kappas—the river demons of Japanese folklore—desire nothing more than the souls of other humans. Set between Singapore and Japan, Kappa Quartet traces the rippling effects of this chance encounter across a host of other characters, connected and bound to one another in ways both strange and serendipitous. Together they ask one another: what does it mean to be in possession of something nobody has seen before?
Image by BooksActually via Facebook
Who can resist this title? A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages, Punjabi Widows introduces Nikki, who takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager. She’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals. Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.
Image by Raj Thandhi
With its reputation as a safe, global city in ruins, Singapore struggles to come to grips with its first serial killer in decades. In desperation, the authorities turn to the one man they loathe almost as much as the serial killer, Detective Inspector Stanley Low. Belligerent and unrepentant, Low’s insubordination has been punished with a menial desk job. He’s angry and refusing to address his bipolar condition, making him the least qualified detective to head a murder investigation with the world watching. He is also the only man capable of understanding what drives the serial killer.
Image by Rich Kill Poor Kill’s Facebook page
My 8-year-old is a big fan of this whole series, a cross-cultural twist on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories tailored for middle-grade readers. In The Missing Heirloom in Katong, Auntie Kim Lian’s precious Peranakan cookbook disappears, and Sherlock Sam cannot eat her delicious ayam buah keluak anymore. Will Sherlock Sam be able to use his super detective powers to find this lost treasure?
Image by Sherlock Sam’s Facebook page
During the Christmas holidays in 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggers a tsunami that devastates 14 countries. Two couples from Singapore are vacationing in Phuket when the tsunami strikes. Alternating between the aftermath of the catastrophe and past events that led these characters to that fateful moment, Now That It’s Over weaves a tapestry of causality and regret, and chronicles the physical and emotional wreckage wrought by natural and manmade disasters.
Image by Goodreads
A Singapore-based answer to The Help, this poignant coming-of-age story, told in the voice of inquisitive Maya, explores the plight of migrant domestic workers in Singapore and the relationships they form with the families they work for. Singaporean 10-year-old Maya is lonely: her grandmother is dead, her mother is focused on her career and her best friend has become a bully. When Aunty M, a domestic worker from Indonesia, joins the family to take care of Maya and her baby sister, Maya is ready to hate her. However, after Aunty M rescues a fellow maid who is beaten by her employer, Maya discovers a side of Singapore hitherto unknown to her. She and Aunty M grow closer as they meet more and more women in need. What will happen when Mama finds out about Maya and Aunty M’s growing involvement with the aunties? Will Maya lose Aunty M, too?
Image by Karien Van Ditzhuijzen
Chock full of relatable moments for the expat crowd, Travails follows American mama Sarah as she leaves behind the comfort and security of her life and moves with her husband and two small children to Singapore. She struggles to find her footing amidst marital problems, new friendships, loss of identity, and general listlessness. But things get real when her husband is arrested in a pub brawl and Sarah must take control over her family and personal life.
Image by Irina Nilsson Photography
Dean of NUS Law School by day, Young Adult novelist by night, Chesterman gives his young readers more of the quirky and charming Arcadia Greentree in this stunning sequel to Raising Arcadia. Her family torn apart by tragedy, Arcadia tries to locate the ‘professor’ whom she believes to be ultimately responsible. A series of clues lead her to Oxford University and a confrontation with her enemy, but all is not as it seems.