The (unnamed) narrator of Eva Aldea’s debut novel admires her greyhounds while they’re chasing after squirrels:
…it is the flutter of a furry tail above the grass that sets them off, from still to leaping in no time at all, paws thundering like hooves on the ground – she loves that sound, feels it in her chest through her own feet. She loves the sight of their bodies in flight, the double suspension rotary gallop, only sighthounds and cheetahs hunt by this fastest and most explosive of gaits, where the body is in touch with the ground only a quarter of the time. The rest is spent flying.
In this opening scene, one of the dogs has got lucky, and the woman has to put the squirrel out of its misery. This is a gruesome little episode that doesn’t fit neatly into the woman’s life as a university lecturer. It sets the tone for a novel that explores what darkness might lurk beneath the everyday.
In the main part of the novel, the woman’s banker husband has moved them from London to Singapore. At first, it seems as though life there will be idyllic, but the shortcomings soon become apparent. It’s too hot even for the dogs to enjoy their walks, and the narrator is disconcerted by the distorting effects of globalisation (such as coffee grown nearby, sent halfway across the world to be packaged, then back to Singapore).
The woman essentially ends up as an affluent expat housewife, which is tedious and puts her high up in a hierarchy where she doesn’t want to be. These frustrations lead her to give free rein to her darkest thoughts, and it’s written in a way that blurs the line between reality and imagination. This is what makes Singapore such a striking debut.
Published by Holland House Books.