Let’s give it up for Gimme Lao! by Sebastian Sim

Let’s give it up for Gimme Lao! By Sebastian Sim

Singapore fiction

Source – Personal copy

I am finding it hard to read in the lockdown just a feeling of not wanting to read a lot and maybe worries around family and work so I decided to try a few books that have been sat around Winstons towers for a while and here is one I think I found via an article about books from Singapore and of course me being me immediately decided to order a book from the ones mentioned and this that was a finalist in the Epigram books fiction prize (the publisher of the book based in both Uk and Singapore. The writer Sebastian Sim grew up in a two-room flat with his parents were part of the pioneer generation of independent Singapore. He has traveled and has had many jobs from salesman bartender and worked in McDonald’s this is his first English language novel.

There were three things Gimme Lao did not know about himself.

The first occurred at the point of his birth. The second happened way befor e he was born. And the third repeated itself many times over his life.

Strictly speaking, the third was not about him. It was about the pivotsal impact he had on other people, which he never found out about.

Take for example Yik Fan. Gimme Lao and Yik Fan went to the d=same primary school Being two years apart, they were notin the same class, nor did they end up in the same extracurrucular sports team. As far as he was concerned, Gimme Lao never knew Yik Fan existed

But Yik Fan knew of him, then its about how his folks meet and the missing out on being the first baby.

What I like about this when I choose it from the list of books from Epigram was it seemed to give you a good picture of post-independence Singapore and even in that Gimme Lao is cheated from being the firstborn on Singapore’s independence day by a nurse but that is maybe the first thing that sets him in his life as he is pushed by his parents is the teacher’s pet and appearing in the news media as a prize-winning student. . Then later at high school he turns on a friend to gain and claws his way to become a  doctor. This is all set in the times from the ban on long hair on men in the 60’s as the society grows so fast in wealth and  as the class is there for the likes of Gimme to climb the ladder and when he rises as a doctor dealing with the Sars outbreak. He is tricked into a marriage but has another child out of wedlock. Then he has a gay son and he is also been pushed by his mother to be a politician but as happens a lot in this clever satire Gimme has the chance to get to the top but is always shooting himself in the foot or his personality or those around him cause his falls. One doctor’s tale that is maybe a thinly veiled form many of those in the post-independence political class in modern Singapore.

Inspiried, Gimme Lao and Omala made a pact to study hard so that hey could both make it into the TEP cohort. When Mary Lao arranged for a tuition teacher to brush Gimme Lao up on the examination subjects, he insiisted Omalaattend the tuition sessions too. Mary Lao was secretly amazed by the exceptionally strong bond the two children managed to foster. When both scored brillantly for the PSLE, she had no objections tp their selecting thje TEP programme in the same secondary school. In her mind. she could see Gimme and Omlaa growing old and sharing memories as lifelong friends.

How far from the truth was his mothers idea her !! they hated each other but need each other to progress.

I was reminded when I got this of Rushdie’s book Midnight’s children but the only common factor is that characters are al born on the day of the country’s independence. In a way what Sim has done here is what I had looked for a lot in the last few years in Chinese fiction and that is how you cope with those giant leaps that countries in Southeast Asia have made in the last few decades this her captures the single-mindedness that was needed to compete and survive in the school system and to get to be a doctor. He also questions the society from the long hair ban craze through the years, tragic event land also the anti LGBT laws of Singapore all come under the spotlight here. A book that spent to long on my shelves and another country to the list of those read from Winstons dad.

July 2020
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