I bought this book at a book warehouse sale for the following reasons:
1) I have never read a local chick-lit;
2) I wanted to check out the standard local publishers set for such books;
3) Having just completed a novel, I wanted to see if my standard is on par;
I really enjoyed the book. Written in the first person account, the story tries to be as local as possible although the protagonist, Audrey Lee, being a Harvard Ph.D student in Literature, would alienate the majority of Singaporean women.
Audrey Lee is newly wedded to Paul Chang, an ABC (American born Chinese) and they had just recently moved back to Singapore for his job. Paul is an expatriate, making Audrey, his local wife, an expat wife. Audrey divides her time in Singapore between her local friends and the expat wives of her husband’s colleagues, which to many of us, means living the life of a tai-tai, down to her Prada bag. Although credit to her, even though she initially had no intention of ever returning to Singapore, she finds herself drawn to the Singaporean inside her.
Reading this book and watching Taiwanese drama The Good Wife at the same time confuses me sometimes. In both, the neglected wife sits at home doing nothing much while the husband is too busy to pay her much attention, and lurking behind is the ever interfering mother-in-law trying to protect her only precious son from the wife.
And so, Audrey spends her time reading Expat Mirrors, attending ladies’ tea, in between meeting her friends from school. Her boring marriage takes an exciting turn when she finds herself meeting three attractive hunks who took an interest in her, something she had never expected in Singapore – meeting handsome men! The fact that her husband is constantly on a chat site with a mysterious woman makes her attempt risks outside marriage.
This book is funny, and made even more fun with many familiar local food and sights. Thankfully, Singlish is not obvious, yet this did not seem out of place in the conversations between the Singaporeans. Kudos to the writer for this. The writer also made sure everything that is Singaporean is not left out, from chicken rise from Maxwell market to Prata, from Bedok HDB mansionette to bungalow in Holland Road.
I like how the author also included quotes from various marriage improvement books at the beginning of each chapter, My few gripes, which betrayed the fact that despite the local name, the author is actually a Filipina, are the following:1) Basement in the house? In hot humid Singapore? Common in other countries but rare here. 2) Greetings between Audrey and Gregory the male artist, both of whom are Singaporeans, involved first a hug, and on another occasion in Bali: He kisses me on the cheeks. Is this the new norm in Singapore?
While the book gives us a glimpse of both local and expat social scenes, I like how instead of marrying a western Angmo, which Paul could easily qualify, the fact that he is not quickly brushed off the impression that Audrey is a Sarong Party Girl (SPG). Still, her behaviors – smoking, drunk and one night stand cannot quite reconcile with the image of a nerdy, Harvard doctorate Singaporean student.