Breaking the Tongue: A Novel

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2004 - Fiction - 407 pages
22 Reviews
This brilliant novel chronicles the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Central to the story is one Chinese family: Claude, raised to be more British than the British and ashamed of his own heritage; his father, Humphrey, whose Anglophilia blinds him to possible defeat and his wife's dalliances; and the redoubtable Grandma Siok, whose sage advice falls on deaf ears. Expatriates, spies, fifth columnists, and nationalistsincluding the elusive young woman Ling-Limingle in this exotic culture as the Japanese threat looms. Beset by the horror of war and betrayal and, finally, torture, Claude must embrace his true heritage. In the extraordinary final paragraphs of the novel, the language itself breaks into Chinese. With penetrating observation, Vyvyane Loh unfolds the coming-of-age story of a young man and a nation, a story that deals with myth, race, and class, with the ways language shapes perceptions, and with the intrigue and suffering of war.

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Review: Breaking the Tongue: A Novel

User Review  - Serene - Goodreads

More useful as a pretentious coaster than an even halfway decent depiction of Singapore/Chinese Culture/Chinese Language. Very sanctimonious. Very insulting. Very frustrating. Read full review

Review: Breaking the Tongue: A Novel

User Review  - Nanna Tirsted - Goodreads

After a slow beginning I grew to love it. The book starts out a bit flat but it really takes off when the war comes crashing down on the family and the main character Claude steps to the plate and becomes a person. Read full review

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The Employment of Secret Agent s
Breaking the Tongue

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Page 13 - He must know where he stands. I may speak the English language better than the Chinese language because I learnt English early in life. But I will never be an Englishman in a thousand generations and I have not got the Western value system inside; mine is an Eastern value system. Nevertheless I use Western concepts, Western words because I understand them. But I also have a different system in my mind.

About the author (2004)

Vyvyane Loh was born in Malaysia and grew up in Singapore. She holds undergraduate and medical degrees from Boston University, and she graduated from the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. She now lives outside Boston.

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