Singapore: Past Becomes Present

I expected to find several books from Singapore, but in the end I could not get my hands on many books. I was lucky enough to find Ponti by Sharlene Teo in my library, and because it sounded strange enough, I decided to read it. This is a debut novel written by an author who seems like she has a promising future. The book has gotten a lot of praise, and Sharlene Teo has been noticed in the literary world with fellows, awards and short listings.

Szu is the main voice in the book, a sixteen-year-old young woman trying to fit in and become an adult. Her mother’s voice can also be heard in the book, but back from the 70s, when she starred in a trilogy of horror films, called Ponti. Ponti has a cult status. The third person in the book is Circe, Szu’s friend, who narrates her story in present day. She is a social media consultant, working for a company that is remaking the Ponti horror trilogy.

There are three stages presented in the book: growing up, both Szu and her mother Amisa, being a grown up and making a career, Circe, and Amisa again, at the end of her life. I sometimes had a hard time getting a grip on the different time changes, but it helps that the point of view of these three people have their own time they are set in, even though naturally all of them are a part of every stage in the book.

I have mixed feelings about the book. It is a fast and easy read, it flows well, as long as I kept in mind the three different time settings. I did not relate to the story or the characters. It is of course a different culture, but I did not find that to be a problem. The main problem for me was that it was hard to relate to an old cult trilogy that does not exist, and then trying to be excited about a remake. It is quite an original story, which I definitely think is a good thing. I can understand that the book has gotten a fan base, just like the Ponti trilogy in the book. I believe you have to understand that kind of fan culture to appreciate the book to its fullest.

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