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Heart Of Glass Paperback – 30 Jun 2018
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About the Author
Ivy Ngeow was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A graduate of the Middlesex University Writing MA programme, Ivy won the 2005 Middlesex University Press Literary Prize out of almost 1,500 entrants worldwide. She has written non-fiction for Marie Claire, The Star, the New Straits Times, South London Society of Architects' Newsletter and Wimbledon magazine. Her fiction has appeared twice in Silverfish New Writing anthologies, in The New Writer and on the BBC World Service. Most recently, her story was published by Fixi Novo in an anthology, Hungry in Ipoh. Her first novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino, was the winner of the international 2016 Proverse Prize and was published in November 2017 in Hong Kong. Ivy won first prize in the Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition 1994, first prize in the Barnes and Noble Career Essay Writing competition 1998, and was shortlisted for the David T.K. Wong Fellowship 1998 and the Ian St James Award 1999. Ivy has been a highly accomplished multi-instrumental musician since childhood and won fifth prize (out of 850 entrants) in the 2006 1-MIC (Music Industry Charts) UK Award for her original song, Celebrity, when she formed her own band, Satsuma (2005-07). Her songs are funky, modern and eclectic, with strong urban grooves and lyrics. Satsuma has played headlining gigs at top London venues such as: The Marquee Club, The Troubadour Club, The Water Rats, The Betsey Trotwood, Plan B and Clockwork.
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So who does the heart of glass belong to? It could be any of the characters, even our 'heroine' of the piece. I struggled with Li-An at first, as she fought her way up the social ladder, like a modern, criminal Becky Sharp.
She wants to get ahead in her musical career, and is offered an opportunity right at the start, to start a new life playing piano in a restaurant in Macau with a mysterious Italian businessman. What could possibly go wrong - honestly, it's completely plausible isn't it.....? Of course it isn't... poor Li-An.
It's sometimes hard to sympathise with the characters in the story, because there's no clear moral guideline in this novel; Li-An is out for what she can get, living off the criminals and gangsters she surrounds herself with. She's not shy about it. It's that struggle with your own mindset that makes you decide whether you root for her or dislike her.... she's no different to many modern women you see in our national media nowadays... sorry, but it's true! She's chasing the dream. Somehow she scoops you up and drags you to the disco with her. When she meets DJ Ben she tries to change, but should she bite the hand that has fed her so far? Will it all go to plan....? This is the bit where I shut up.
I loved the authentic voices that Ngeow creates, I was speaking like the characters of Goodfellas in my mind throughout - I don't know whether that's appropriate, but I mean it as a massive compliment to Ivy's writing and characterisation skills. This is the 'American Dream' gone awry, the street paved with gold with the mysterious man... with apparently no strings attached. We all know it doesn't work that way.
At the end of the day, this is a story about greed, gangsters, drugs and a desire to reach the top, with a few diversions inbetween to keep us entertained... I didn't expect to like Li-An's character, she's ambitious but also naive, and I think the readers will find that intoxicating - I enjoyed the ride through the 80's with her....
The books throbs to the sound-track of Blondie and other American tunes of the era, reinforcing Li-an’s musical aspirations. Pace – a hundred miles an hour. Setting – seedy exoticism. Characters – funny, flawed, gutsy, memorable and poignant. Plot – twist and turns. Humour – American wise-cracking.
This book has it all- interesting characters, a plot that drives you crazy, and a chic noir atmosphere you can’t help but obsess over. Ngeow’s imagery and detail is what ties this book together. The reader is plunged straight into the 80s music scene, jumping from one place to another. Li-an is an attractive character for two reasons: 1) she develops herself throughout the novel creating a thick plot for you tear through; and 2) as a reader, you make a strong connection with her immediately so you reflect on how Li-an acts and feels. It’s a very intense story with a lot going on, but you don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, you feel excited to continue this thrilling tale of travel, hope, and the sinister side to human nature.
The plot is well crafted but was not created around the characters- instead, they move along with the story, as if another force is compelling them. This aspect I really enjoyed as it kept me continuously guessing what was going to happen. The writing needs to be highlighted here as it is fantastically written with in depth emotive language heavily explored in the novel. It is simply stunning!
With a heart-racing plot and twist upon twist of cliff-hangers, this book is a brilliant read. If you want to try and read something different to your usual genre but still want a story to pull you in, this is definitely the book for you.
Fans of all genres will enjoy this book as it has elements of everything- crime, thrills, travel, romance, drama (so much drama!). Ngeow is definitely the one to watch as I thoroughly enjoyed this creative and inventive novel!