Finished reading: The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng 📚
I was really intrigued by this book because it blends elements of magic realism (islands that appear and disappear, strange catches of fish, sand that follows a character around) with the broad sweep of Singapore history in a time of great change, and themes that always interest me—how do we make a place for ourselves in a land that we’re constantly reshaping? Against a landscape that keeps on changing? What of home? What of memory?
The Great Reclamation lived up to my hopes and more. It’s an incredible achievement of research and storytelling, and a fantastic read. I often feel that historical novels get bogged down by negotiating the incidents and prevailing narratives of the time, but Rachel Heng does so deftly through the eyes of her characters, in a way that never makes you feel like one point of view is the right one. There’s a lot of empathy for various perspectives on Singapore’s history and the positions that people take. The fates of all the characters diverge greatly, some for the tragic, but there are no villains here, only stories of Singaporeans at a particular time in our history that really comes alive in this novel.