Thursday, July 19, 2012

Return to a Sexy Island

I first met Neil Humphreys in person at my junior college quite a few years ago. Sadly, I can't remember what he was there for because I don't think it was purely a book signing session. As I had lessons, I asked my friend to help me get his signature in my book. He wrote, "Dear (my name), you have a great friend!" Typically him.

I have read every single book of his relating to Singapore and it was purely by chance that I bought his newest book when I was browsing in Kinokuniya. I was actually pretty sad when he left Singapore for Australia 5 years ago because I enjoyed reading his columns in ST. (Now, John Lui is my favourite columnist in ST because his articles are hilarious.)

If you cannot entertain the thought of profanities staring at you or suggestive material peppered throughout the book, Return to a Sexy Island is not the book for you. But if you have the ability to look past that, I think it's a great book for Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike. He does a pretty good tour of places in Singapore you wouldn't have seen on the map five years ago and the funny incidents that happen because he is an angmoh. Admittedly, I think his previous books were slightly more entertaining but this does not remove the shine of this book in any significant way.

On a more serious note, I think his stories over the years, starting from his shift to Singapore to his shift to Australia and back to Singapore again, are really fascinating. They speak volumes about a foreigner who manages to assimilate himself well into the society, someone who appreciates a country which prides itself on her people and lastly, someone who doesn't complain "Eh Singapore got nothing to do lah. Only watch movie and shop."

For fear of sounding like National Education, I'm going to quote his book anyway because I think many of us can identify with it. (Disclaimer: This is not representative of the style of his book which has lots of humourous anecdotes.) But here's it:
Australia is known affectionately as the "lucky country", but there is nothing lucky about Singapore, nothing at all. Its success derives wholly from human endeavour, resoucefulness, productivity and knowledge with an overwhelming, almost disturbing, emphasis on education and filial piety." 


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