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Singapore, 1960s: Sembawang is home away from home for a tightly-knit community of bachelors and families who work at Her Majesty's Naval Base.


Behind closed doors, a matriarch controls her daughters-in-law's movements. A bachelor from Kerala pines by his window for his forbidden lover. A maid from a rubber estate across the border aches to hold her young son once more. An inter-racial love between a conservative Tamil woman and a worldly Chinese man wreaks havoc in the life of an innocent bystander.


The idyllic village life is shaken when two midwives are viciously attacked at the maternity clinic, and again when one of their own beloved residents meets with an unnatural death. As catastrophes strike, the village comes together as one.


A dramatic sweeping saga of Sembawang families across five decades.

ISBN: 978-9814893282

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...This painstaking and beautifully illustrated translation brings this story to a wider audience offering not just a story but an ethnographic account of a particular chapter in the story of colonial exploitation...

Prof. Bill Ashcroft, Emeritus Professor, University of New South Wales

...lively and sensitive translation...

Prof. Sunil Amrith, Yale University, MacArthur Fellowship 2017 Recipient

..what emerges is a powerful expose of of the severe, capricious and unrelenting journey of Tamil and Malayalee women - a hitherto obscure fragment in the story of Singapore's pioneer generation."

Assoc Prof. Rajesh Rai, National University of Singapore, Author of 'Indians in Singapore 1819-1945

Evocative period details backed by solid research, a complex web of characters you want, - no demand - to follow through their ups and downs... 

Felix Cheong, Young Artist Award Recipient, 2000

...translated skillfully and with infinite tenderness...

Dr Gita KrishnanKutty, Recipient of Katha Award for Translation (1993 & 2000), Crossword Award for Translation (1999)

Anitha Devi Pillai's meticulous research for and the curation of this transcreation of her mother's novel  adds a further enriching layer to this fascinating text." 

Dr Angus Whitehead, Author of 'The Wayang at Eight Milestone; Stories and Essays'

This is a novel that sings.

Dr Ann Ang, Author of 'Bang my Car'

...rare peek into the simple yet convoluted lives of the families who lived in and around the British Naval Base in Singapore...a totally ENGROSSING read...

Lakshmy Iyer, Connected to India

RIVETING...teems with life given its evocative period details and sprawling web of characters ...engrossing read that adds to our understanding of Singapore history...

Ho Ai Li, The Straits Times

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