It is July 2020, Singapore, four months since the pandemic has altered daily routines and shrunk mobility. Every book I have read in this time, I have viewed from within what feels like a tunnel. It is a strange place—infused with anticipation and anxiety about the future, interrupted often by the random onset of memories of the past, and buzzing with the sounds, smells, sights, and feel of immediate, material life. Time and space have a dual and surreal quality—ephemeral and conceptual, yet persistent and corporeal. This tunnel demands my attention in a way I have not experienced in a while—I remember friendships I did not know I had forgotten; recall mundane and unphotogenic moments in vacations that had gone without remark; am curious about gaps in my memory of places where I hung out as a teenager. And then, yanked back to the here and now, I notice the way sunlight dances into my study through the blinds, and find fault with chipped paint, unruly ferns, domestic messiness, all of which must have been here before. Reading Mrs Irene Lim’s memoir, 90 Years in Singapore, from this place, I am therefore first struck by her attentiveness, an attentiveness I am rediscovering.
Read the full review at New Mandala.