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The Rose Of Singapore: An Epic Tale of Love, Loss and Sexual Awakening In 1950s Malaya and Singapore
When Aircraftman First Class Peter Saunders of the Royal Air Force leaves England for the Far East in 1951, he is only eighteen years of age. His two-and-a-half-year tour of duty takes him briefly to Hong Kong and Malaya before being posted as a cook to RAF Changi, Singapore. For an adventurous young man such as Peter, Singapore in the early 1950s holds all the promise of the Orient-exotic surroundings. Unusual customs and mesmerizing women. Peter soon meets and falls in love with a local Chinese girl but only later does he learn she is not entirely what she seems.
The Rose of Singapore is a moving work of fiction about love, loss and sexual awakening and is based on the true experiences of the author, Peter Neville. The backdrop is Singapore and Malaya during the Emergency period—a time of active Communist terrorism as well as rising nationalism—and Neville describes in minute detail daily life at that time. With chaotic scenes of lecherous sailors and bawdy prostitutes in Singapore’s infamous Bugis Street and other red-light districts; nail-biting episodes of jungle combat in Malaya; glimpses into the daily toil of stallholders and trishaw drivers; as well as the prejudices of the British colonial regime, Singapore and Malaya of old is brought vividly to life in this Tanamera-style blockbuster.
“Singapore and parts of Malaya were like home to him. He had a keen eye for detail as can be seen in his vivid portrayal of Singapore and Malaya during the Emergency period when the British forces were fighting communist terrorism, the rise of nationalism, and life in the streets with lecherous sailors and bawdy prostitutes as well ordinary folk trying to etch out a living.
The jungle fight scenes are well described and fast-paced—from the moment the members of the Malayan Communist Party opened fire on the convoy of military lorries and tanks snaking its way up to Fraser's Hill to when Saunders blacked out after he was shot while trying to save the little daughter of the local tycoon.
The book also offers a detailed description of Singapore's infamous Bugis Street and red-light districts of the 1950s, interspersed with a taste of the different lifestyles then in Singapore and Malaya.”
–The Straits Times
“In a warm descriptive style, Neville recounts his first impressions of the Far East and his enchantment with its exoticness. He can obviously remember his own feelings and emotions with such clarity that his scenes are colorful and lively; he vividly captures the young protagonist Peter's naivete about life in the infamous Bugis street and red light district of Singapore.
The latter part of the book, written in quite a different style, is by far the most gripping. Peter and his best friend Rick are transferred back to Malaya in a party of twenty-two airmen required to support the defense of the isolated base at Fraser's Hill. Neville's tense and compelling story of savage ambush and jungle fighting leap from the pages; I would have to believe that they are based on his own experiences. The raw brutality and reality of the story seem too much for mere fiction. Without giving the story away, the book weaves and twists through a number of sub plots that take the reader from horror and sadness to anticipation and acceptance.
It deserves a wider readership now, as it seems to capture the essence of a bygone era in this part of Asia in the 1950s where British colonial rule was struggling against emerging Asian cultures.”
–The Asian Review of Books
“If you like historical novels or if you’ve been told time and again by your grandparents how life used to be back in the old days, you just might find this book a little intriguing.”
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