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Singapore Stories: Chapter 2

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So many Singapore stories. Maybe it’s the heat. Or all those palm trees. Could be Singapore’s spicy multicultural stew, its colonial past, its immigration story, or those traumatic WWII years and the Japanese occupation. There have been more books written about Singapore than you may realise, both fiction and non-fiction, by a sea of writers coming at it from many different perspectives—Chinese, Peranakan, Malay, Indian, Asian-American, British, Australian and so on. And so we continue our list of books with accompanying tours that bring their pages to life.

A number of novels have been set in WWII-era Singapore.

The Singapore Grip by J. G. Farrell. Book 3 of the Empire Trilogy, which examines British imperial rule. The final book set in Singapore on the eve of WWII, sets a merchant’s daughter’s doomed romance against the backdrop of a crumbling British empire.

Tanamera by Noel Barber (1995). Tanamera, Malay for red earth, is an epic, old-fashioned, romantic saga that describes colonial life, the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, and how the island survived to become a powerful city state in the 1960s.

See the colonial architecture described in these books in our Development of Architecture Walk. Learn more about WWII-era Singapore in our WWII 75th Anniversary Tour.


Some novels have focused on the seedy side Singapore, including one that was the basis for a banned late 1970s movie.

Saint Jack, by Paul Theroux. The story is set in the days when prostitution and shady characters were an obvious part of the country’s gauzy fabric. The basis of a scandalous 1978 movie of the same name, director Peter Bogdanovich famously submitted a fake script to authorities for approval!

Fistful of Colours by Christine Suchen Lim. A seminal book in Singapore’s literary journey it was the first recipient of the Singapore Literature Prize. Through the eyes of a young teacher, it muses over the hopes and struggles of Singapore’s immigrant populace.

Looking for something different like exploring the dark underbelly of our little island paradise? Book one of our private Vice & Nice tours. We’ll show places you can’t imagine!

Perhaps you’re interested in learning more about our migrant population. Saris, Sultans & Shophouses will share stories of Singapore’s original Chinese and Indian migrant populations.


Kampong Spirit—Gotong Royong, by Josephine Chia. This collection of delightful, real life short stories will take you through Singapore in 1960s’ at a human level. Kampong Spirit brings to life the colourful characters of the villagers with whom the Peranakan author grew up at a kampong in Potong Pasir. The book also reflects the dramatic era of Singapore as the country struggled towards nationhood.

Kampong is Malay for village. These rural enclaves all but disappeared as the country emerged into a modern-day city-state. The last remaining kampong is on Pulau Ubin. Step in time with us as when you journey from Singapore’s mainland to this outer island in our Pulau Ubin Adventure.



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