The Singapore Grip (New York Review Books Classics)
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Singapore, 1939: life on the eve of World War II just isn't what it used to be for Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore's oldest and most powerful firm. No matter how forcefully the police break one strike, the natives go on strike somewhere else. His daughter keeps entangling herself with the most unsuitable beaus, while her intended match, the son of Blackett's partner, is an idealistic sympathizer with the League of Nations and a vegetarian. Business may be booming—what with the war in Europe, the Allies are desperate for rubber and helpless to resist Blackett's price-fixing and market manipulation—but something is wrong. No one suspects that the world of the British Empire, of fixed boundaries between classes and nations, is about to come to a terrible end.
A love story and a war story, a tragicomic tale of a city under siege and a dying way of life, The Singapore Grip completes the “Empire Trilogy” that began with Troubles and the Booker prize-winning Siege of Krishnapur.
quite right: each young Chinese had a half-bottle of whisky planted on the table in front of him and from time to time he took a swig from it to moisten his gullet before resuming his shouting. The evening pursued its course. The heat and the noise grew steadily more acute. This, the Major decided, his brain reeling, could only be a local chapter meeting of the Youth Blood and Iron Traitor-Exterminating Corps. He could not help but make a dubious comparison between these wild and vociferous
time that Mr Webb was shifting uneasily in his chair but at this point the old chap had suddenly burst out in anger: ‘And why shouldn’t she be educated? Eh? Tell me that! How will the Chinese ever pull themselves together unless they build up their minds and bodies? Tell me! And you can stop grinning like that, too. I was in this Colony before you were born!’ The old man had stood up, white with anger. The man from the Protectorate, taken aback by this sudden outburst, muttered : ‘When they’re
home in London. He traveled in time too, of course, and his evocation of the Raj at the time of the Indian Mutiny must be one of the best there is. One of the remarkable things about the work is his uncanny sense of period, his eye for the clinching detail—an elephant’s-foot wastepaper basket in Troubles, or the contents of Prince Hari’s room in The Siege: Near a fireplace of marble inlaid with garnets, lapis lazuli and agate, the Maharajah’s son sat on a chair constructed entirely of antlers,
rational thought) in the progress of humanity. Of course, people change. Matthew and Ehrendorf had both undoubtedly changed in the years since they had argued into the night in Oxford and Geneva. Matthew had realized even in Geneva that he himself was beginning to change: he no longer enjoyed arguing with his friends, above all those who had embraced the academic life, quite as much as he had once done. It was not simply that these friends had tended to adopt the lugubrious and self-important
before it’s too late.’ But again he closed his eyes and, again, within a few moments, was obliged to open them, this time because he had heard a crunch of gravel and a creak of the wooden steps which led up to the house. The Major, perhaps, or Dupigny returning home, he surmised. They would certainly help him to make contact with a doctor. It was Joan, however, in excellent spirits. ‘It’s me,’ she cried gaily. ‘I forgot my handbag. Come for a walk outside. It’s lovely. The moon’s just rising or