Book Review: ‘A Different Sky’ by Meira Chand

Book Title: A Different Sky

Author: Meira Chand

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: Drawing together the lives of different people from different backgrounds, all with hopes for their futures in Singapore, A Different Sky starts in 1927 and stretches to the mid-1950s. The novel follows the lives of Mei Lan, Howard and Raj – and many others – as they are influenced by the events in Singapore’s history during this time, from communist protests, Japanese occupation, and pro-independence rallies. A more detailed synopsis can be found here.

Favourite Scene: “Wilfred Patterson was getting used to everything but the heat. The humidity drained him of energy; he was never free of its insidious presence.” (page 111) – I hear ya, buddy.

Favourite Character: Howard. I think I have a new literary crush.

Review: Evidently I’m branching out from my “usual” reading material and I am, once again, pleasantly surprised. Chand’s evocative descriptions of colonial Singapore are intriguing to me and I especially love the fact that as I was reading the novel I was often on the bus on my way to one of the streets or locations mentioned within its pages. More than anything, I found A Different Sky to be the perfect introduction to Singapore’s rich history – especially as I now live here. I feel a much closer bond to Singapore now than what I did before I read the novel!

The novel itself is a gorgeous tapestry of characters, events, and politics. I feel terribly ignorant when it comes to history, so where other readers might read the novel with an awareness of what’s about to happen to everyone, I was shocked and surprised as lives and paths were changed because of the events that took place not only in the novel but also in history. I think I’m Historical Fiction’s new fan!

Chand creates beautiful characters with flaws and imperfections; I was delighted to discover that I could relate to some of their experiences, beliefs and ideals. I especially love the way the characters are pulled into plots greater than themselves; the politics and social issues of the time period influence them just as much as people can influence social change. It is very well done in representing such a tumultuous political time period, without it being a manifesto or lecture on Singaporean politics or culture. More than anything, A Different Sky is an ode to perseverance and the human spirit, and a beautiful love story.

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4 comments on “Book Review: ‘A Different Sky’ by Meira Chand

  1. I read Lee Kuan Yew’s tome The Singapore Story (w/c was very well-written, too) a couple of years ago so I believe I’ll like this one. But before I really consider buying it, are there graphic depictions of torture (the author mentioned it in the synopsis)? It takes me a looong time to get past those so I want to know beforehand, hehe.
    Thanks, Stef!

    • I wouldn’t put it on a “Saw” level, certainly not. You get told what torture methods are used, but it’s not a thriller/horror novel so the descriptions aren’t designed to terrify. There’s much, much more to the novel than the torture some of the characters experience – I didn’t even think about it, actually, until this comment!

      • Saw! πŸ˜€
        I’m relieved. Because this really seems to be a wonderful story & I don’t want a torture scene to do me in. (I once heard some Filipinas speak about the time they were turned into “comfort women” by the Japanese and it got me so mad I wanted to break things. Japan-made things, too. That’s how much stories like those affect me.)
        Thanks, Stef! πŸ™‚

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