An East-West ro­mance

A woman’s jour­ney into her heart and soul.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS MONTHLY - MySin­ga­poreLover My Sin­ga­pore Lover Judy Chap­man Mon­soon books 256 pages, fic­tion Re­view by AIDA AH­MAD star2@thes­

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LOVE is blind. Case in point: In Judy Chap­man’s My Sin­ga­pore Lover, Sara is drawn to Jimmy, a very wealthy and very mar­ried Chi­nese hote­lier in Sin­ga­pore, who charms and mes­merises her to obliv­ion.

Sara is a young Cau­casian woman who ar­rives in Sin­ga­pore to work on a mag­a­zine story about the sup­pos­edly stereo­typi- cal at­trac­tion be­tween Western men and Asian women. Are Asian women who go af­ter Western men sim­ply gold dig­gers? Are Western men who are at­tracted to Asian women all sleeze hounds?

And then Sara finds her­self be­com­ing the sub­ject of her own as­sign­ment.

Chap­man keeps the plot at the be­gin­ning of the book juicy enough to hook the reader. The story of how Sara’s present sit­u­a­tion came about, as well as mo­ments from her past, are weaved in in­ter­est­ingly through­out the book – al­though the ef­fect is a bit choppy.

Among the im­por­tant el­e­ments of Sara’s past is Ravi, her first love from her child­hood, and the time she spent with him in In­dia, where she was trav­el­ling with her par­ents. So we learn that Sara is ob­vi­ously a Westerner who has been ex­posed to the East­ern world pre­vi­ously.

The first chap­ter reels you in with how Sara be­comes em­broiled in this love af­fair and how she tries to find her feet when she’s sud­denly thrust into a life of lux­ury. One scene set in The Four Sea­sons Ho­tel is es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive in tak­ing you into Sara’s mind, as she ques­tions her mo­tives in be­gin­ning this re­la­tion­ship with the charm­ing Jimmy.

I think Chap­man suc­cess­fully por­trays Sara as more than your typ­i­cal home-wrecker, show­ing her to be a woman who is fight­ing her own demons and try­ing to keep the (mar­ried) man she loves at arm’s length. Jimmy, too, is not your typ­i­cal phi­lan­der­ing wom­an­iser, as he comes across as a man who gen­uinely cares for Sara – it is ob­vi­ous through­out the book, as he con­stantly ad­vices her to be kinder to her­self.

Chap­man also suc­cess­fully cap­tures what it is like be­ing a Western woman work­ing in an Asian com­pany, de­scrib­ing how Sara finds it hard to read people around her at work and gauge their in­ten­tions. For in­stance, Sara fights for equal­ity in the dis­tinctly pa­tri­ar­chal workplace at first be­fore dis­cov­er­ing that it is all a game, one that she learns how to play.

And af­ter meet­ing lo­cal Chi­nese women, she also learns that it is not just wealth that at­tracts Asian women to Cau­casian men.

Sara changes and grows through­out the book: She ar­rives in Sin­ga­pore as a meek and mild (and emo­tional) damsel, seek­ing to have it all. Not only does she de­velop an as­sertive side, but she also sees how the cut­throat cor­po­rate world takes a toll on her col­leagues’ lives and re­alises she does not want to be like them even if it would al­low her to have it all.

Look out for the twist in the last quar­ter of the book con­cern­ing Sara and Ravi’s past – it’s a shocker.

More than just a ro­mance fo­cus­ing on a woman’s predica­ments, My Sin­ga­pore Lover also fol­lows Sara as she looks within her­self with the help of Jimmy and Ravi.

In a YouTube in­ter­view, Chap­man says, “I was re­ally pas­sion­ate about writ­ing a story about a woman’s jour­ney work­ing in the cor­po­rate world who is strug­gling be­tween her in­tu­ition and fol­low­ing her in­ner voice against the hard sur­faces of the cor­po­rate world ... it’s some­thing I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced my­self.

“I just wanted to ex­plore what hap­pens when you go against that in­ner voice we all have.”

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