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.