Sarong Party Girls

Sarong Party Girls

A beach read with a difference, Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is light and breezy but at its core is a subversive message about Singaporean society and the place women have in it.

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While we were immediately smitten with the snappy Singlish Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan writes in, lah, we weren’t so keen on what at first seems like a vacuous storyline: The protagonist Jazeline (Jazzy) and her posse of pals — think Singaporean Sex and the City, not Emma or Breakfast at Tiffany’s as the publisher’s various blurbs suggest — are Singaporean girls on the prowl for a wealthy husband in a society where it’s all about the brand and the right look.

As the book moves on though, we see Singapore’s nightlife scene — which has moved on somewhat since the days of Paul Theroux, shall we say — through the already-jaded eyes of a young woman, still living at home aged 26, navigating the realities of living there today. Consider it a counterbalance to the widely published drivel written by white men about the sex industry in Southeast Asia — but SPGs is assured and insightful.

But the book is about more than just dating. As she pursues a cushy future, Jazzy presents a portrait of Singapore today. It's a a rainbow of races connecting across occasional faultlines; a city of chilled malls and risque clubs; a society where somehow family remains key; and a vibrant streetscape that features smoking men sipping kopi at kopitiams and diners wolfing down chicken rice at hawker stalls (only now while checking their texts).

Take Sarong Party Girls to the beach with you for a glimpse into life in the city state as Jazzy learns about what’s most important to her and what's really worth pursuing.

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