Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

In brief: Jazzy and her friends have a new aim now they are getting old (at 26): find and marry a good Ang Moh man and have beautiful Chanel babies. It sounds easy, but the bar and club scene in Singapore throws up a number of obstacles…

The good: I adore books set in Singapore and this book name drops many, many happening places.

The not-so-good: I wanted more of Sher and Seng, they both sounded sweet.

Why I chose it: Many thanks to SocialBookCo, who granted me this book off my wish list.

Year: 2016

Pages: 308

Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)

Setting: Singapore

My rating: 9 out of 10

Books set in Singapore are a rarity – before Crazy Rich Asians, the only books I could find were by local authors. Sarong Party Girls continues (at least initially) in the same vein as Crazy Rich Asians, but without the dizzying displays of wealth. Oh, it’s still there but this is much more of a heartland kind of book with a normal heroine. At the start, I thought this would be all party party party (and drink drink drink) but as the story continues, our heroine Jazzy finds the darker side of the club scene.

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan writes this book in Singlish, the local patois of Singapore. If you’ve been to Singapore, you may be familiar with the some of the expressions (such as lah to end a sentence, aiyoh as an exclamation and ang moh for a foreigner). If not, you will get an idea of what they mean as you read. But if you want to brush up on your Singlish and make sure you’re not talking cock, I recommend http://www.singlishdictionary.com/. I promise you that the book is easy to read and guniang here was pretty much fluent at the end.

The premise of the story is pretty simple on the surface – Jazzy and her friends are getting old (nearly 27!) and need to find themselves rich expat husbands to have beautiful Eurasian babies. This needs to be done quickly so they set themselves a deadline of 1 year. Jazzy’s former best friend is already off the table – Sher has disgraced the team by marrying an Ah Beng (local) man. Imo and Fann take up the challenge, but it’s really only Jazzy who takes this super-seriously. She plots and plans how to find a rich husband and gets herself entangled in the shadier sides of the club/expat scene where women are nothing but pieces of meat. By day, Jazzy is worried about her job as her boss makes noises about trading her in for a younger model and the deterioration of her friendship with Jazzy. Will this sweet social climber find true love or the ang moh of her dreams?

Jazzy is a simple girl who gets caught up in all sorts of odd stuff at night. Initially, she’s happy to be there looking shiok, making the boys steam for free drinks and VIP areas. So what if she’s not always comfortable with the way the men are acting? It’s a small price to pay. But her eyes begin to open at a Chinese club where the girls are the entertainment for the men and how the women are treated as sex objects at a KTV lounge. And when people she thought she trusted begin to act like she’s nothing but a plaything…will Jazzy accept things or will she revolt? She’s a strong character with an iron will but not always in the right direction. I came to love Jazzy as the book went on as she faced up to some facts she had carefully been ignoring.

I liked how Sarong Party Girls started off like a big party life then went on to explore the dangers of excess (drinking, money and the like), rebellion against tradition and the marginalisation of women. The reactions of the different women were interesting and sometimes astounding in my opinion. It’s still a fun read though and I’d recommend it for those looking for a fun read that also comments on issues below the seemingly perfect surface.

Note, if you do want to buy Sarong Party Girls – you can look at preferred retailers through this SocialBookCo link (I will earn a small commission if you purchase through here).

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