Yes, I know. Not my usual fare. Only, I did read all those Crazy Rich Asians books. But what actually happened is that I signed up to receive email alerts from a Singapore bookstore during a very enjoyable weekend I spent in that city-state. As my friend says, it’s the best run dictatorship in the world.
This is not Crazy Rich Asians. It’s something more funny, local, and desperate. It’s not wealth porn. In fact, the main character seems lower middle class. And Crazy Rich Asians has plenty of phrases from the country’s dialect, this book is basically written in dialect (while there, I heard it described as ‘Singlish,’ but I can’t say if that’s a common, accurate, and non-offensive descriptor).
There is something a little sad about the ‘protagonist’ (anti-hero), Jazzy, and her friends. A pretty girl hanger-on to wealthy (and, needless to say, male) friends seeking a caucasian (ang moh, in the dialect) boyfriend to marry because… well, that’s what you do. The sheer volume of drinking makes me feel old. I remember being in my twenties and able to drink quantities and not be brutally hung over the next day, but that feels very long ago. She is a fascinating protagonist and following her adventures feels almost anthropological. But while this book feels more ‘literary’ than the breezy Crazy Rich Asians, the protagonist of that book did seem like she might be an interesting person to talk to; Jazzy, on the other hand, lives in the moment (despite, theoretically, having opened the book by hatching a plan to find said ang moh boyfriend who is also husband material).
Without giving too much away though, the book does end on a somewhat happy note. Jazzy has a moment of maturity and makes a decision to grow up, as it were. It is an ever so slightly feminist decision, but also appears rather suddenly. This may sound odd, but it reminded me of the ending of A Clockwork Orange (the book, not the movie), where our nasty little anti-hero grows up and gets bored with ‘ultraviolence.’