Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

Hooray! It’s a book set in Singapore!

It’s been called Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones Diary but that doesn’t feel like a good description. Yes, some of it is written in diary format and the main character is a single woman so the Bridget Jones part is there. But she isn’t exactly Crazy Rich. So the only CRA part is that it’s set in Singapore? Is every book set in Singapore going to be referred to CRA from now on? (Please note that I have only read CRA and didn’t exactly like it, so I have no idea what Kwan’s other books are like, and yes, I’m from Singapore, and no not everyone is that rich).

“It’s a sign of how Singaporean I’m becoming: relying on Foreign Talent to work on jobs I don’t want to do myself. Go me!”

Andrea Tang is a lawyer. She’s from Malaysia and works in Singapore and is aiming to become partner soon. She’s doing pretty well for herself, she’s got a fancy apartment, and likes to name-drop branded goods.

She recently broke up with someone and is single. And in some Chinese families that is a big deal. As in, who cares if you’re a high flying lawyer when you’re not married and worse still, don’t even have a boyfriend?

Along comes Eric Deng, a much older but extremely wealthy businessman. But wait, there’s more, there’s also Suresh, another lawyer in her firm, they share the same office and are both on the partner track, they’re rivals but there’s something about him that’s attracting her…

Last Tang Standing was a very energetic, fast read, sometimes funny in a self-deprecating way. Lots of alcohol consumed, lots of late nights worked, lots of face time put in at work – sounds about right when talking about Singapore’s corporate lifestyle (although I have not lived there for ten years, I’m guessing it’s still the same, maybe worse). A lot of the issues brought up in this book, such as the nosey aunties’ treatment of single women, the mother’s dislike of her other daughter’s boyfriend as he is a different ethnicity, all ring true. But as some of this bigotry involves minor characters, whom we hardly know much about and some of them were quite two-dimensional, as a result, nothing came out of that, which is a pity, as that may have been a good chance to actually address those issues. I was especially uncomfortable with the queer character, who seems more of an afterthought.

The tone of the book was rather acerbic and as such, it was hard to like Andrea. While I appreciate the character of a hardworking (albeit always late for work), highflying female, and all the pressures that come with being successful but single in Singapore/Malaysia, it was hard to like Andrea.

What I mean is that I was happy to finish reading the book, at no point did I decide to just give up on it, but also it wasn’t a book that made me sigh happily at the end, pat it endearingly, think about buying myself a copy, or want to start reading it from the beginning.

So while I’m interested to see what else Ho writes, this is more of a 3* read for me.

7 Comments

  1. I always like to come across a good book about Chinese characters so it’s a shame this doesn’t quite do it.
    I am sure that it is easier for many people to use CRA as a shorthand for a book set in Singapore. It might take a while for that to die down.

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  2. Ooh, okay, interesting. I will maybe wait for this author’s next book rather than reading this one. Also, I HEAR YOU on the CRA comparisons, which are now everywhere. I’m happy that Singapore is having a literary moment in US fiction, and I know that’s partly due to the success of Crazy Rich Asians, but gosh, people could give it a rest with that particular comparison.

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    1. Yup, it’s not just the books comparison but also, people will ask me, oh is Singapore just like in CRA? I can’t figure out if that’s an improvement over, oh, Singapore, that’s in China, right?

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