This is truly a fiction made in Singapore with historical background to the Singapore River, before and after the clean-up. The story, though fictional, covers the history of squatters along the river and their eviction to make way for a massive cleanup of the river (1977 – 1987).
I remember the era in the 60’s, 70’s of this waterway where tongkangs, bumboats plied the river bringing goods into Singapore warehouses. It was a different world back then, our economic lifeline.
The story of Yoke Lan, the Pipa Queen, and her illegitimate daughter Wong Ping Ping spanned more than four decades. I feel for the story because I was born in that era. If you want to know that era, this novel captures the essence of the period. It was nostalgic and brought back memories of Singapore of the past.
The pipa and dizi (bamboo flute) were the common threads that strung the characters together with emotional love stories; different type of love between mother and daughter, love story of Ping and Weng, the male character that played the dizi.
The ending was particularly impactful and clever of the author that brought all main characters together for the befitting end of a story of pains and unknowns in their lives. A great read for me as Suchen Christine Lim was able to write and transported me to that long-gone period of quirks, dialects and it was so real and authentic.