A Different Sky

A Different Sky

by Meira Chand
     
 

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A dazzling novel telling the history of Singapore through the moving stories of three families whose lives become intertwined.

Riding a trolley bus through Singapore's crowded Chinatown, ten-year-old Howard and his mother find themselves in the midst of a communist riot. As Howard watches, a British policeman is wounded by the mob. But Howard finds that, instead

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Overview

A dazzling novel telling the history of Singapore through the moving stories of three families whose lives become intertwined.

Riding a trolley bus through Singapore's crowded Chinatown, ten-year-old Howard and his mother find themselves in the midst of a communist riot. As Howard watches, a British policeman is wounded by the mob. But Howard finds that, instead of horror he feels satisfaction. It is 1927 and in a Singapore still under British colonial rule, opportunities open to local people are few. On the bus with Howard is a young Chinese girl whose fears and frustrations are of a different kind. Born into a wealthy Chinese dynasty, with a grandmother still suffering from bound feet, Mei Lan faces a life of feminine submission if she is unable to break free. In the years to come, the pair will be drawn together, but when war arrives, followed by the brutal Japanese occupation, their sense of self will be thrown into question, and their relationship tested to breaking point.

In a novel of breathtaking scope, Meira Chand tells the story of three families caught up in the tumultuous history of Singapore, as it journeys along the long, hard path to independence. From the opportunist Raj Sherma, an Indian immigrant made good, to the young Communist Greta, fighting the imperialists in the 1950s, and from the mixed loyalties of the Eurasian and Chinese communities to the sufferings of British prisoners of war, A Different Sky paints a vivid panorama of Singapore society through the personal struggles and victories of characters the reader will find it hard to forget.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chand (A Far Horizon) proves herself a master of the modern Asian epic in this tale of Singapore citizens whose lives intersect from 1927 to 1956 as the island strains under British colonial rule, suffers through Japanese occupation, and struggles to turn its racially mixed, socially divided, politically turbulent society into a viable independent state. The novel begins with the Kreta Ayer riot, witnessed from a trolley by, among others, Howard Burns, a young, grumpy Eurasian boy; a well-off and pampered Chinese girl, Mei Lan; and a hardworking, kindhearted Indian immigrant, Raj Sherma. Protected from the mounting turmoil, Howard and Mei Lin grow up and grow together, hoping to dismantle the social barriers between them, but WWII forces them apart. Howard takes uneasy refuge with Communist guerrillas, a kinder fate than befalls Mei Lan, who is captured and brutalized by the Japanese. Readers are immersed in Howard’s ordeal as well as that of his mother, whose house has been commandeered by the Japanese, and his sister, a nurse whose English husband is marched off to a POW camp. As Mei Lan is tortured, her once wealthy Chinese family must make a difficult adjustment in order to survive the Japanese occupation. And Raj enjoys successes in business as his sister’s marriage to his close friend seems destined to fail. After the war, Howard’s, Mei Lan’s, and Raj’s paths converge again as they deal with new difficulties and old injustices. Chand endows her characters with humanity and complexity, making them representative without being stereotypes. She avoids clichés by grounding her characters and their histories in solid research, and offers a credible, compelling panorama of the tragedy and resilience, culture and individuality, political evolution, dissolution, and renaissance of 20th-century Singapore. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"This extraordinary book traces the island's story through to 1956 and independence — I thoroughly recommend it."
— Daily Mail

"An exotic, challenging, and heartbreaking novel."
Hong Ying, author of Daughter of the River

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780099546245
Publisher:
Random House UK
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Pages:
488
Sales rank:
475,646
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet the Author

The author of seven previous novels, MEIRA CHAND is of Indian-Swiss parentage. Born and educated in London, she has lived most of her adult life in Japan, apart from some time in India during the seventies. In 1997 she moved to Singapore where she now currently lives. She is involved in several programmes to mentor young writers in Singapore, and has recently been writer in residence at Mansfield College, Oxford and also at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

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