Fistful of Colours – Suchen Christine Lim
Fistful of Colours is an elegant, multi-layered reflection on Singapore as experienced through one day in the life of Ong Suwen, a young teacher in search of her identity as a woman and an artist. Peering into the rich history of her stepfather’s family, Suwen uncovers and reveals the hopes and struggles of Singapore’s first generation of immigrants and residents – from Chinese collies, Indian doctors and Malay waiters. It tells the story of the protagonist Suwen against the backdrop of Singapore culture at different times while interweaving the lives and histories of her family members and friends.
Readers are drawn into the rich culture of the different races; Baba, Chinese, Malay, Indian and the Westerners, while empathizing with the characters in the novel as they either suppress themselves or try to break social forces within the fixed social construct. Nica goes against her father’s wish for her to be a doctor, choosing rather pursue her passion as an artist. Janice faces objection from her family as she decides to marry a Malay journalist. The novel shows how Suwen and her friends deal with external expectations, and at the end of the day, makes choices that lead to self-discovery.