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Sunday February 23, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday February 23, 2014 MYT 11:00:15 AM
By AIDA AHMAD
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 stereotypical 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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