Summary

"This novel chronicles the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Central to the story is one Chinese family. Claude, the son, raised along with his sister to be more British than the British, is profoundly ashamed of his own heritage. Humphrey, the father whose allegiance to the Empire blinds him to the idea of defeat, is also blind to the afternoon assignations of his decorative wife, Cynthia. Observing both the family and the larger landscape is the redoubtable Grandma Siok, whose sage advice and quotations from the ancient Art of War fall on deaf ears. And then there is Ling-Li, the elusive young woman - part nurse, part warrior - who guards secrets." "When the British defenses crumble, so too does Claude's world. Beset by war, betrayal, and, finally, torture, he is forced to acknowledge and embrace his true identity."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


"This masterly novel is not only bold and challenging but also beautifully written. The reader will be left breathless by the ending."—Library Journal "A moving accomplishment."—Publishers Weekly, starred review "Vyvyane Loh's richly ambitious narrative weaves the personal and the political into an unforgettable novel."—Claire Messud "In the tradition of Rushdie or Ondaatje, this is one of the most accomplished first novels I've ever seen."—Andrea Barrett  "A revelatory book that is both novel and history, written with splendid and intelligent humanity."—Shirley Hazzard, author of The Great Fire

This brilliant novel chronicles the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Central to the story is one Chinese family: Claude, raised to be more British than the British and ashamed of his own herita≥ his father, Humphrey, whose Anglophilia blinds him to possible defeat and his wife's dalliances; and the redoubtable Grandma Siok, whose sage advice falls on deaf ears. Expatriates, spies, fifth columnists, and nationalists—including the elusive young woman Ling-Li—mingle in this exotic culture as the Japanese threat looms. Beset by the horror of war and betrayal and, finally, torture, Claude must embrace his true heritage. In the extraordinary final paragraphs of the novel, the language itself breaks into Chinese. With penetrating observation, Vyvyane Loh unfolds the coming-of-age story of a young man and a nation, a story that deals with myth, race, and class, with the ways language shapes perceptions, and with the intrigue and suffering of war. Reading group guide included.