Thursday, January 28, 2016

Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places edited by Verena Tay

After reading too much incomprehensible poetry, this delightful book of short stories set in different places in Singapore was a much needed breath of fresh air.

The brainchild of Verena Tay, this book is the second collection of stories under the same name, hence "Balik Kampung 2A" because everyone loves sequels. Comprising 11 short stories, it features award-winning writers together with literary unknowns. They are all equally brilliant though. It was an easy read and I finished it in two days while travelling on MRT trains to work.

The book got off to a good start with Joshua Ip's Peace is a Foot Reflexology Parlour which was set mostly in Beauty World along Upper Bukit Timah. I am quite familiar with that area and it was refreshing to finally see a piece of short story set somewhere in Singapore.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book and all the stories were really good. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the quality was not uneven, unlike other collections. If I'd had to pick favourites, it would be a toss-up between Joshua Ip's piece, Shelley Bryant's Enough, and Cyril Wong's The Mistake. The latter was narrated from the perspective of a little boy which very different from the stories found in the rest of the book but worked quite well.

I think those of the older generation might enjoy Carena Chor's The Tontine Leader as it might bring back memories of when that money-lending ingenuity was still in place.

All in all, people who've stayed in Singapore for some time ought to read this book. I'd recommend teachers of Literature in English to use this book as material for their students. It might be a bit too long for Unseen Prose, but I think it would be an interesting change from reading short stories set in America, England or Africa.

You can get this book from Books Actually.


Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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