The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza – Cyril Wong
One last time and on her birthday, Rose de Souza is returning to school to give a final lesson to her classroom of secondary school boys before retiring from her long teaching career.
What ensues is an unexpected confession in which she recounts the tragic and traumatic story of Amir, a student from her past who overturned the way she saw herself as a teacher, and changed her life forever.
Kappa Quartet – Daryl Qilin Yam
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 is split into eight discrete sections, tracing 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?
Art Studio – Yeng Pway Ngon, translated by Goh Beng Choo and Guan Liang Loh
Singapore, 1980s: Amid the tumult of political promise and upheaval, Yan Pei and his students struggle to pursue art in a rented studio. Yan Pei, a penniless artist, sacrifices more than his marriage to perfect his craft. His student Si Xian makes an irrevocable decision after Ning Fang, the subject of his unrequited love, leaves him for India. Jian Xiong gives up art – and his humanity – when communist politics force him to flee into the Malayan jungle.
The Trader’s Wife – Anna Jacobs
Singapore in the 1860s is exotic and yet terrifying for a penniless Englishwoman, alone and vulnerable after her mother’s death. Too pretty to obtain a governess’s job, Isabella Saunders accepts an offer from a Singapore merchant to teach him English and live with his family.
Two years later Bram Deagan arrives in Singapore, determined to make his fortune as a trader. Mr Lee sees a way to expand his business connections and persuades Isabella to marry Bram.
Bravely, she sets sail for a new land and life. But the past casts a long shadow and together they face unexpected dangers. Will they find a way to achieve their dreams of a successful trading business?
Ministry of Moral Panic – Amanda Lee Koe
Meet an over-the-hill Pop Yé-yé singer with a faulty heart, two conservative middle-aged women holding hands in the Galápagos, and the proprietor of a Laundromat with a penchant for Cantonese songs of heartbreak. Rehash national icons: the truth about racial riot fodder-girl Maria Hertogh living out her days as a chambermaid in Lake Tahoe, a mirage of the Merlion as a ladyboy working Orchard Towers, and a high-stakes fantasy starring the still-suave lead of the 1990s TV hit serial The Unbeatables.
A Different Sky – Meira Chand
Singapore, 1927. Three young people are starting to question whether this in between island can ever truly be their home.
Mei Lan comes from a famous Chinese dynasty but yearns to free herself from its stifling traditions. Ten-year-old Howard seethes at the indignities heaped on his fellow Eurasians by the colonial British. Raj, fresh off the boat from India, wants only to work hard and become a successful businessman.
As the years pass, and the Second World War sweeps through the east, with the Japanese occupying Singapore, the three are thrown together in unexpected ways, and tested to breaking point.
Inheritance – Balli Kaur Jaswal
Inheritance is a nation’s coming-of-age story, seen through the sharp lens of a traditional Punjabi family as it gradually unravels.
Set in Singapore between the 1970’s and 1990’s, Inheritance follows the familial fissures that develop after teenaged Amrit disappears in the middle of the night. Although her absence is brief, she returns as a different person.
Over two decades, as Singapore’s political, social and cultural landscapes change, the family’s attempts to cope with the shifts—those coming from outside and from within—lead to some disastrous consequences. With the traditional expectations of their country on the one hand, and their own volition on the other, Amrit’s family must avoid imploding. How do we confront our legacies, and, when necessary, how do we accept change? Inheritance is a universal story of family, identity and belonging.