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Singapore Swing Paperback – 6 Aug 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Summersdale (6 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840245948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840245943
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 536,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The author's insight into the hardships gay people face shows the struggles minority groups have... a wealth of intriguing characters"
-- Real Travel, October 2007

"inspires and reinforces a belief in the basic good of human beings" -- St Christopher's Youth Hostellers'/Backpackers website, September 2007

'Up there with the best of them'
-- Suite 101 website, August 2007

Malathronas discovers the real Singapore
-- Publishing News, July 2007

About the Author

John Malathronas is the author of the popular travelogues Brazil: Life, Blood and Soul ISBN:9781840243505 and Rainbow Diary: A Journey in the New South Africa ISBN: 9781840244458. He lives in London and is a member of the Guild of Travel Writers, contributing to magazines such as Travel Africa.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is part travel guide, part historical guide and part guide to the soul of Singapore. It is a funny and insightful guide to the tiny city-state of Singapore. Singapore is a amalgamation of cultures (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian et al) and as such is very diverse. The spirit, if you like, of Singapore is well described in this work. I particularly enjoyed the intertwining of stories from Chinese, Malay and Buddhists legends. In terms of history, the foundation of Singapore, the People's Action Party and the Second World War are covered. I followed up a few of the organisations mentioned in the book, and this was an interesting exercise.

Recommended for those who are interested in Singapore!
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Having spent a couple of weeks in Singapore, and expecting to spend a few years there in the near future, I bought this book as a bit of a light Singapore-mindset-orientation manual. I am not sorry to have bought it: generally, the book was well-written, informative and enjoyable. My reservation is that the book is, well, a little eccentric.

The book is divided into two halves, corresponding to two visits to Singapore - the first, with the author's arm in a sling, and the second without. This is a nice touch - it means that the reader gets a sense of the pace of change in this fast-moving city. Although barely a couple of years pass between the first and second visits, much in the city is different. Each chapter begins with a highly paraphrastic rendering of some piece of Buddhist, Confucian, Malay... or something else folklore, which is thematically linked to at least some of the experiences in the chapter that follows. This, again, is cute - the author connects his anecdotal experience of Singapore with these expressions of the worldview that stands behind it. And interwoven with his anecdotal account of Singapore is a retelling of the country's history, both before and after independence. For me, this was the book's strong suit. I certainly learnt more about Singapore, and it seemed to me that the amount of history included was well-judged.

As other reviewers have pointed out, Singapore Swing is very smartly written - exactly the sort of thing I'd enjoy reading on the plane there. And I also appreciated the reluctant sympathy the author had for Singapore - a sympathy that captures something of the western love-affair with this city. Plenty of plus points, then...

Nevertheless, I would only give this book 3 stars.
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Singapore is difficult to get a grip on. Turnbull's History of Singapore presents a broad (and excellent) overview of the Lion City, and Malathronas' travelogue complements that with a set of contemporary social encounters; it's possible to even visit Singapore and not see much beyond the squeaky clean public persona, but Malathronas' encounters give an account of a more social side of Singapore.

It is what it is; it doesn't pretend to be a guide book, or a social study. Malathronas met some interesting people and went to some interesting places during his trips to Singapore, and here they are.
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This is an interesting book in that it combines a travelogue with an easy to read, non academic historical account of what makes Singapore Singapore.

One arrives in Singapore with Sir Raffles and learns that until the beginning of the XX century there were free roaming tigers in the jungle and convicts were employed to catch stray doges to be used as baits until the man eaters were finally exterminated from the island.

The debate on the pros and cons of caning are discussed, with real life examples that draw the reader into the controversy, whatever his point of view.

The magically harmonious ethnic mix of Singapore is discussed at length, as well as its colonial heritage, the Japanese occupation during WW II and the separation from Malaysia.

All around, a good primer on the country. It won't answer all your questions, but it will stimulate the reader to read more about this extraordinarily successful country, its pride and its contradictions.
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Format: Paperback
Bought the book as living in Singapore from January and wanted a different perspective than the usual Lonely Planet guides give you. An interesting read and thorouhgly recommend for those visiting or going to live in the country.
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