Josephine Chia is a Singapore author of both fiction and non-fiction. I have read her memoirs Frog Under A Coconut Shell and Kampong Spirit, Gotong Royong – Life in Potong Pasir 1955-1965 and her novel, My Mother-In-Law’s Son. When A Flower Dies is her second novel, published in 2015. It reads like a historical fiction, incorporating themes like community spirit, heritage, kampong days, Peranakan culture, Medisave, BTO (Build-To-Order) HDB (Housing and Development Board) flats, the Pioneer Generation Package, an old person’s loneliness, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and what Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore.
The section that I enjoyed most reminds me of the authors and poets studied in school: Shakespeare, Dickens, Thackeray, the Bronte sisters, Austen, RL Stevenson, Keats, Tennyson, Shelley, Blake, Eliot, Frost and Wordsworth. I also like the witty lines such as:
- “Beware the barreness of a busy life” (quote from Socrates) when she wrote about the irony of modern modes of communication, and
- “Literature is about a place within us that we can’t easily reach. An inspired work of art takes us there. A painting, a good piece of music, or a poet’s and author’s words become a vehicle for us to make that inner journey.”
Best of all, however, were how the words of my favourite poet, William Blake, were worked into the novel:
- from Auguries of Innocence:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour
- on possessive love:
Love seeketh only Self to please
To bind another to its delight
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite
One other line that stood out for me is: Children are their parents’ unconscious attempt to amend their lives and to grasp immortality.