A Pain in the Neck
by Grace Chow
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
‘A Pain in the Neck’ is a humorous, ironic, autobiographical story about a young, well-educated Chinese girl who desperately plots an escape from Singapore, and finds love and happiness in Europe. The moment that she finally has the world at her feet, however, she is struck down by an incurable disease that only occurs in one in a million people. This book invites the reader into the grungy world of Singapore politics and the intricate dreams of a girl growing up in a family she detests for their sheer mediocrity. It is written in a unique style that combines story-telling with essay. Each chapter has a different theme, but this eye-opening journey remains led by the constant, strong voice of the author’s narration. It pursues the poetry of life with Schopenhauer, Descartes, and The Smiths as chorus; it does philosophy to a soundtrack of pop music.
Reading this book made me look back on my own experiences of popular music, philosophy and Singapore. At first I had never imagined that all three could be combined. Perhaps my failing was due to the lack of a final ingredient, an incurable disease.
The author Grace Chow begins her story with a theme that resonates with many of our own sense of needing to escape, to get out.
When I first stumbled upon the PAP's planned housing, I realised that I would have felt suffocated and atomised in Singapore. I thought that my initial response was that of an outsider, now I realise that others feel the same. The HDB complexes are practical solutions, but some of us desire more than, 'practical solutions'.
"A Pain in the Neck", contains many views on how Singapore is governed, and who it is governed by. Written in many styles, serious, insightful and I actually laughed out loud on a few occasions. Peppered with despair on the darkest of days, but there is a dogged determination within its pages to express life and to live it to the full according to her individual will and capabilities.
Grace Chow combines many elements in this autobiography; Singapore; escape, love, philosophy, religion, popular music, travel, illness, memories, hope and despair.
The somewhat simplistic stereotype of the average Singaporean is that of un-questioning, consensual, and materialistic. Grace has laid the stereotype to rest.
I await another book from Grace Chow. Write faster Grace.