Straits Times Press Books :: Fiction, Plays, Poetry

Fiction, Plays, Poetry

Fiction, Plays, Poetry


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Battle At the Red Cliff

Time: the third century Ad. The once-flourishing Han Empire has collapsed in the face of raging peasants rebellions. Warlords fight endlessly. Among them are three camps - the armies of overlord Cao Cao (Wei), imperial heir Liu Bei (Shu) and daring young Sun Quan (Wu). The scene is set for an intriguing era of turmoil - the Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280). These military giants wage an epic battle for territory and power, to be China's ultimate leader. The rivalry climaxes with the famed Battle of Red Cliff; a tiny force defeats huge numbers with brilliant strategy by a master tactician, laying the foundations for the three kingdoms that later arise.

In the Battle of the Red Cliff : A Guide to 'Three Kingdoms', respected author Li Lienfung imaginatively re-enacts Luo Guanzhong's semi-factual Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Key episodes (many adapted as operas) are described and analysed - not always conventionally - to reveal the strengths and flaws of each protagonist. Displaying her outstanding knowledge of Chinese literature, history and culture, she discusses little-known facts and the origins of many Chinese sayings, and offers fascinating insights, reconstructing a bygone age of heroes as never seen before, in the hope of inspiring readers to discover for themselves the incomparable colour of the original book.

Our price: US$11.50
Cousin June

A cabaret in Singapore during the 1930s, and a young woman takes to the dance floor with her next customer... So begins Zheng Shuying's evocative portrait of the days and nights of an immigrant Chinese Family.

A graceful reflection on familial ties that spans shanghai, Penang and Singapore, Cousin June brings to life unforgettable assembly of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. From the fiery Ta Ee Ma to her father, the finest gambler in old Penang, Zheng reveals the joys and hardships of a singular family, and the strength of its women across the generations.

Any investigation of the past is fraught with possibilities, not all of which are welcome. So it is Cousin June, a memoir of remarkable honesty in which what is unspoken is as important as what is revealed. Through recollections of Shanghai and the Malay Peninsula in which her memories and those of her Cousin June become increasingly entwined, Zheng captures the spirit of a bygone era and explains its rituals, rules and codes. The stories that emerge are by turns comic and deeply felt, fraught with the words and actions of the people they have known, and expressed in lyrical passages that mirror Zheng's search for answers.

Much of the book is related in the first-person voice of Cousin June, a figure of goodness and decency who comes in focus through her actions and words (often practical and to the point). It's hard to render colloquial Asian dialogue in way that seems true, but this is what Zheng has done. The book is sprinkled with words in Malay, Chinese and Hokkien, and the world it portrays will be instantly recognisable to anyone in Singapore and Malaysia. With settings that range from cabarets and Peking opera stage to gambling dens, Cousin June reveals a wonderfully fragrant and largely forgotten part of old Asia.

Half-remembered conversations and vivid moments recovered from the past, set amid a backdrop of cabarets, the opera stage and mahjong tables - these pieces are woven into a narrative of truth and loss by the voices of Zheng and her Cousin June.

Our price: US$9.50
Fistful of Colours

Fistful of Colours is a elegant, multi-layered reflection on Singapore as experienced through one day in the life of Ong Suwen, a young teacher in search of her identity as a woman and an artist. Peering into the rich history of her stepfather's family, Suwen uncovers and reveals the hopes and struggles of Singapore's first generation of immigrants and residents - from Chinese collies, Indian doctors and Malay waiters, each is given a unique and vibrant voice. Woven into this narrative are stories of Suwen's fellow artists that touch upon themes of art, identity and the pursuit of personal and artistic freedom. It is their search for answers that give this lyrical, beautifully considered and well-loved book its restive spirit.

It is a seminal novel in Singapore's literary canon and was the first book to receive the Singapore Literature Prize in 1992. This brand-new edition from Straits Times Press incorporates the final text revisions from the writer and features a new cover and improved layout for easier reading. This novel has been adopted as a core text by some of the top schools in Singapore. It should be read in Singapore schools because it integrates literature with history and brings Singapore History to a personal level.

Our price: US$18.00
In The Company Of Women

Family. Relationships. Love, food and babies. The things closest to the hearts of women - and men - all over the world.

This first collection of ten plays, monologues and a film script from actor/director/playwright Verena Tay, deftly written from the perspective of a distinctly Singaporean woman, plunges us deep into the intricate female psyche. Firmly rooted in both the heartlands and urban space of Singapore, these works are steeped in the island's unique flavour of modern sophistication and tradition, multi-culturalism and ethnicity, past and present. They come straight from the heart, exposing issues both serious and frivolous: sex, bonds, stress, the search for identity and the perfect shoe.

Few writers can match the precision and sensitivity with which Verena reflects the female condition - her characters' crisp, colloquial language belies her grasp of what a woman is.

Incisive without being judgement, passionate without being feminist: the simple charm of Verena's writing increases with each reading.

Our price: US$14.50
Only A Sandpiper

Only A Sandpiper: Appreciating Classical Chinese Poetry brushes off the cobwebs from the poetry of ancient China. Savour the works of legendary greats with renowned author and columnist Li Lienfung, as she explains the tricks and traps of writing traditional Chinese poetry through original and translated examples of shi, ci, and dui lian, complete with hanyu pinyin (romanised pronunciation). Gain insight into the life and times of masters like Du Fu and Su Dongpo, Li Bai and Li Shangyin. Playing with words never seemed easier.

Only A Sandpiper contains more than 40 traditional Chinese poems by more than 10 poets. For centuries the feeling of the poets, together with their thoughts, tales and wishes, were passed on by word of mouth all over China. In this long-awaited book, author Li Lienfung passes on her accumulated knowledge in her own words. She shows us that the Chinese language itself is an art, and that the art of traditional Chinese poetry is to put your feelings, your life, your everything so sparingly and subtly into certain time-honoured forms, that people who read them hundreds of years later will still understand you and relate to your sentiments.

Join Li Lienfung as she teaches us to appreciate traditional Chinese poetry. Together with her, read about the life and feelings, the love, sorrow, sadness and bitterness of the poets.

Our price: US$18.50

Armed with Contax T2, a Lonely Planet guidebook and a compulsion he doesn't quite understand, Nick, a young photo journalist, travels down the highways of Vietnam to a long-awaited gathering with four dear friends.

In a land where the scars of war are still visible, Nick finds a surprising beauty and humanity among the Vietnamese people and his fellow travellers, reaching a truth within himself that is lucid yet muted.

A novella of youth and urge for discovery and renewal, Tangerine received the Singapore Literature Prize in 1996, and is the only Singaporean novel to be selected for the NLB's READ! Singapore initiative. This revised edition under the Quintessential Asia series also features a new foreword by the author.

Our price: US$6.95
Taxi Talk


Tall tales, urban legends and stories of hope and yearning… Taxi Talk takes you on a jaunt through the bright lights and streets of Singapore.

Sly commentary and a revolving cast of colourful local characters describe life's many journeys (comic and otherwise), and how ordinary people connect (or don't) with one another. It's a world that's instantly familiar to anyone who's ever had the odd feeling of being in transit, as seen through a sensibility that's by turns warm, lucid and wise.

Ghostly passengers who don't pay, taxi drivers who disappear at 11:45pm, and the secret to getting a cab when there are three other people waiting in front of you... These are some of Taxi Talk's many delightful gems. Being lost in transit has never seemed so intriguing and full of possibilities.

Our price: US$13.85
The Manic Memoirs of Terry Ho

1977-2002; a  quartercentury of irrevenece and madness.

See the world as you've never seen before - through Terry's very own Nerd glasses.

Grow up with Terry in Singapore - on a diet of dancing dinosaurs and sashaying supermodels; join him in the hallowed halls of learning in Ye Olde England and the oversized Land of Giants across the Atlantic; follow Terry into the depths of the Underworld…. ascend to Gangsta Paradise... and navigate the mythical-but-murky waters of a fabled river. Walk the dogs in sunny Spain and dodge the killer-drivers of Paris; get ready for the insult of your life in a Thai hotel lift. And like a true-blue Army recruit, bellow to the tune of "Eh ah oh ah!"

Our price: US$7.50
The Ocean Of Ambition

The Ocean Of Ambition, Koh Buck Song's third collection of poems, takes us on a journey of familiarity and emotion. Nothing is too small or too large for his perceptive eye - a squirrel, Batman, the Taj Mahal. Describing scenes and feelings with artistic ease and drawing connections between these subjects and our workaday lives, Buck Song reminds us of what we miss by being too focused, by failing to pause and absorb and appreciate what surrounds us.

The Ocean Of Ambition is a habitat that is not always hospitable, and in this ocean hapless squid struggle to survive. The author hopes that it sums up the essence of all the ambitions of art - to give voice to the human condition.

Our price: US$9.00
The Sword With Two Edges

The stories of the Three Kingdoms of China (AD 220-280) have been popular for so long that many people regard the characters in the famous Romance of the Three Kingdoms as historical personages. The Sword With Two Edges is the timeless story of some of these legendary characters.

General Lu Bu and his foster father Prince Dong Zhuo have been tyrannising the people. Prime Minister Wang Yun sends his maid Cicada (Diao Chan), one of China's Four Beauties, to sow discord between the two and ultimately destroy them, putting an end to their rule.

Well-loved Chinese author Li Lienfung puts flesh and blood and soul into the heroine of this play, which was first performed in 1977.

Our price: US$11.50