Review: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

Ponti by Sharlene Teo

2003, Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing seances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, an unlikely encounter develops into an intense friendship and offers Szu a means of escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience.

Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is about friendship and memory, about the things we do when we’re on the cusp of adulthood that haunt us years later. Beautifully written by debut author Sharlene Teo, and enormously atmospheric, Ponti marks the launch of an exciting new literary voice in the vein of Zadie Smith.

Published 24 April 2018 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$29.9

My Blurb (3.5 stars)

I can’t say that the book cover and/or description was attractive to me but I try to support Asian authors to I really gave this book a fair go. I read it from beginning to end and whilst I find the plot to be haunting, it really was too sad for me. In addition, the alternate POVs in different time periods were slightly unhelpful to my focus.

I am sixteen and a half and beginning to realize that life sometimes happens like this: quickly, with no further allowances.

The story began with Szu’s POV in 2003, in her teens and struggling with her body image, her family, and suffering all the emotional upheavals puberty can give a girl. Her father disappeared a long time ago and she does not relate well to her mother. This brings us to the next POV, Amisa’s, Szu’s mother, beginning from her childhood in 1975 until the time of the main story (2003). Most of her story is about her young-adulthood in which she made her choices and hence, had to live with the consequences.

Then enters a third and outside POV, Circe’s, Szu’s only friend in high school. Circe’s POV is set in 2020, 17 years after the main story but events in her life brought her back her memories. She was 16 in 2003 and was also struggling with her own issues. Her friendship with Szu was full of sharp edges but they were friends.

Because it is comforting to know that there is someone similar to you in the world, it helps a person to feel less faulty and alone.

On the whole, I cannot say that I love this book. I wish I do but it’s just not for me. I found it a little difficult following the 3 strands of not-so-link-able stories though each came with their own wisodm. I like that there were moments this book just jabbed right at you and I can totally empathise with these teen girls but despite its hypnotic pull, I am also a tad repulsed (was I meant to be repulsed? I honestly don’t know…). My recommendation is please do read it and let me know your thoughts! This book could totally be for you.

And by the by, WTH is ‘chendol espresso martini’?! Is this thing for REAL? Where can I get some in Sydney?!?!

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Sharlene Teo (b. 1987) is a Singaporean writer based in the UK. She is the winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award for Ponti, her first novel, released by Picador and Simon & Schuster in 2018. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Esquire (Singapore), Magma Poetry, The Penny Dreadful, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, New Writing Net and Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two. In 2012, she was awarded the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship to undertake an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia, where she is currently in her second year of a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. She is the recipient of the 2013 David TK Wong Creative Writing Fellowship and the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship.

Find Sharlene on:  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  tumblr

2 thoughts on “Review: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

  1. Pingback: Bingo! ~ #AsianLitBingo 2018 | Tien's Blurb

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