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The Singapore Grip (New York Review Books…
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The Singapore Grip (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1978; edition 2005)

by J.G. Farrell, Derek Mahon (Introduction)

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4951220,650 (3.99)150
Member:Marensr
Title:The Singapore Grip (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:J.G. Farrell
Other authors:Derek Mahon (Introduction)
Info:NYRB Classics (2005), Paperback, 584 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Fiction, British, NYRB

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The Singapore Grip by J. G. Farrell (1978)

  1. 00
    The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell (anzlitlovers)
    anzlitlovers: The Siege of Krishnapur won the Booker Prize in 1973
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The long time this has been on my 'currently reading' shelf reflects the difficulty I had getting it read. It's not just that it's long (longer than GoodReads says - my copy of this edition is 672 pages) but that it's dense, and it's not just that it's dense, but that it seems unnecessarily so. As always, the problem may be with me, not the book, but I could have done without the detailed accounts (however wry) of military strategizing especially: after a while the book felt weighed down by Farrell's extensive research (signaled in the acknowledgements and the included bibliography). Otherwise, The Singapore Grip has a lot in common with the other two books in the Empire Trilogy: it's a bleakly comic snapshot of a disintegrating world, featuring characters who can't quite understand what's happening to them. Farrell is very good at capturing this particular milieu, and also at setting up characters who, despite their inevitable ineptitude (who, after all, can win in a struggle against 'the spirit of the age'?) are somehow endearing. It was nice to see the Major again.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
Can't believe it's taken me this long to get around to discovering this book. I loved it. Political, satirical, historical. Can't wait to read the other two in his Empire trilogy. ( )
  katie | Apr 7, 2013 |
A novel of manners and political argument about the fall of Singapore to the Japanese. The argument aspect involves the exploitation of Malaysia and its people by the business interests of Singapore. The comedy of manners derives from this. ( )
  pnorman4345 | Apr 1, 2012 |
This is a deceptively long book. It looked around 300 pages but stretched to 570. Not that it was overlong but there were times when I wished it had been shorter. Still, it was an interesting glimpse into a life that is no longer which is probably a good thing.

It begins in the world of the rubber trading families of Singapore’s wealthy British elite in late 1941 when the city stood on the brink of invasion by the Japanese. It ends as the British surrender. The story follows the characters as their worst nightmares are realised and their world of order and control descends by degrees and despite their unbelief into anarchy and chaos.

Throughout the book, Farrell is biting in his cynicism of the British and all they stood for. The characters are comic in their tragedy and, despite them suffering several inconveniences as the Japanese invade, you have little sympathy for them.

The backdrop that Farrell has created for this narrative is rich in its descriptive power of both Singapore’s culture and government at the time. If you’ve any interest in the Asian theatres of the second world war you will appreciate this. The Japanese are described in very sparing detail which only serves to give you a better perspective on what the British knew of them which was precious little. Never was so much underestimated by so many.

If you’ve ever visited Singapore, this is worth reading. If you’re about to head over there, pack this in your hand luggage. It’s long enough to make the 15 hour flight seem shorter if you can drag yourself away from the garbage that vaunts itself as entertainment on airplanes these days.
2 vote arukiyomi | Oct 21, 2011 |
When I first saw the two pages Farrell lists as his sources for this novel, I was a little apprehensive that I’d be getting a history lesson and in a way these fears were confirmed as I read the book. I felt that quite often Farrell manufactured a point of tension and used this to allow characters to put forward a point of view to which the reader would give attention waiting, as they are, for the resolution of the situation. Towards the end, for example, Walter seems unaware that his godown is about to be burnt down and just lectures Matthew about how times have changed for the worse. Then we quickly move on to the next chapter and a change of scene after Walter anticlimactically becomes aware at the last moment of the flames.

Having said that, though, I found Farrell’s whimsical touches, as with The Human Condition, that is the decaying dog ever managing to avoid being put down and last seen making for the captain of the last ship to safely leave Singapore, to keep my attention. I also enjoyed the description how the self-indulgent, venal Monty, wanting to remonstrate with the idealistic Matthew, got no further than “‘But . . . ’ began Monty. He was silenced immediately, however, by his own right hand which, spotting its opportunity, had raised another forkful of fish and chips and now crammed it into his mouth as soon as it opened to speak.”

Ultimately, though, I felt Farrell was more interested in the history and his theme than he was in the character who were there more as a voice for different points of view about the value of or damage done by British imperialists engaged in trade. Even the ending, open as it was, suggested some lack of interest in the fate of his characters. In the ambiguity of the title, from its sexual connotations to the one of the pursuit of self-interest rather than common interest we get a taste of the range of the book but the latter interpretation is the one which dominates.

I’m glad ‘Troubles’ got the lost Booker prize as I think it was more deserving than this one. ( )
2 vote evening | Sep 28, 2010 |
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For Bob and Kathie Parrish
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The city of Singapore was not built up gradually, the way most cities are, by a natural deposit of commerce on the banks of some river or at a traditional confluence of trade routes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A love story and a war story, a tragicomic tale of a besieged city, colonial Singapore and a dying way of life for the protaganist, Walter Blackett,head of British colony, Singapore's oldest and most powerful business company.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 000616014X, Paperback)

Singapore, 1939: life on the eve of World War II just isn't what it used to be for Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore's oldest and most powerful firm. No matter how forcefully the police break one strike, the natives go on strike somewhere else. His daughter keeps entangling herself with the most unsuitable beaus, while her intended match, the son of Blackett's partner, is an idealistic sympathizer with the League of Nations and a vegetarian. Business may be booming—what with the war in Europe, the Allies are desperate for rubber and helpless to resist Blackett's price-fixing and market manipulation—but something is wrong. No one suspects that the world of the British Empire, of fixed boundaries between classes and nations, is about to come to a terrible end.

 

A love story and a war story, a tragicomic tale of a city under siege and a dying way of life, The Singapore Grip completes the “Empire Trilogy” that began with Troubles and the Booker prize-winning Siege of Krishnapur.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Singapore, 1939: life on the eve of World War II just isn't what it used to be for Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore's oldest and most powerful firm. No matter how forcefully the police break one strike, the natives go on strike somewhere else. His daughter keeps entangling herself with the most unsuitable beaus, while her intended match, the son of Blackett's partner, is an idealistic sympathizer with the League of Nations and a vegetarian. Business may be booming?what with the war in Europe, the Allies are desperate for rubber and helpless to resist Blackett's price-fixing and market manipulation?but something is wrong. No one suspects that the world of the British Empire, of fixed boundaries between classes and nations, is about to come to a terrible end"--Publisher's description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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