Who better to recommend your weekend reads than Sharlene Teo? Last May saw the 29-year-old Singaporean win the first ever Deborah Rogers Writers' Award, a prize set up in 2014 to honour British literary agent Deborah Rogers. The same woman who had represented authors such as Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro, this prize puts Teo in pleasant company indeed, with McEwan even lamenting that Teo's winning work is a "remarkable first novel in the making".
Titled Ponti and targeted to due in September, Teo's entry was selected from 885 submissions. The PhD student from the University of East Anglia in Norwich envisions a coming-of-age story of two girls, Szu and Circe who navigate Singapore in the early 2000s to the 2020s. As we await its publication, we pick the brains of this young talent.
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
"The main character, Yori, struggles with her brilliant sister Elf's suicidal impulses. For a book so full of death and despair, it somehow manages to be funny and uplifting. It's morbid, yet blisteringly alive. It made me full on ugly-cry toward the end."
The Modern Library Writer's Workshop by Stephen Koch
"It's the best book on writing. It's not too long and has some very useful and practical tips on craft and structure."
Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
"It is the most searing, sincere and poetic exploration of what it means to feel like an other, comfortable neither here nor there, caught between cultures, feelings, places. It's a book about inconsolable loneliness and the horrible things this isolation can make you do, and the possibilities of redemption from there. I admired the writing so much and it really moved me in a way that no novel has since All My Puny Sorrows."
Crossing Distance by Tan Mei Ching
"This is from a local author, I read it many years ago and it has really stayed with me. The understated, melancholic stories in this collection deal with issues such as the pressures of the school system and the complexity of parent-child relationships and expectations. The young versus the old, thresholds and boundaries. I love the occasionally Carver-esque terseness of her language. The brevity of the stories work to communicate harsh and moving truths about our mortality and the negotiation of cultural and personal identity in a hybridised world."
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
"My mother loved Olive Kitteridge by the same author, and Lucy Barton deals with mother-daughter relationships, poverty, aging, loss- very timeless things."