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How We Disappeared - Jing-Jing Lee

How We Disappeared

By: Jing-Jing Lee, Lee, Jing-Jing

Paperback | 31 March 2020

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Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020

The heart-rending story of survival and endurance in Japanese-occupied Singapore


Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only three survivors, one of them a tiny child.

In a neighbouring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is bundled into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel. After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced there still haunts her.

And in the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he could never have foreseen.

Weaving together two timelines and two very big secrets, this evocative, profoundly moving and utterly dazzling debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, and heralds the arrival of a thrilling new literary star.

About the Author

Jing-Jing Lee was born and raised in Singapore. She obtained a master's degree in Creative Writing from Oxford in 2011, and has since seen her poetry and short stories published in various journals and anthologies. Jing-Jing’s novella, If I Could Tell You, was published by Marshall Cavendish in 2013 and her debut poetry collection, And Other Rivers, was published by Math Paper Press in 2015. How We Disappeared is her first novel. She currently lives in Amsterdam.
Industry Reviews
'Deeply affecting.' * Financial Times *
'A sweeping epic and...an essential read... It's incredibly beautifully written.' * Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti *
'A heartbreaking but hopeful story about memory, trauma and ultimately love.' * New York Times *
'This heartbreaking story explores shame and secrecy through two timelines, woven together in this deeply moving novel. A quite extraordinary book.' * Kirsty Wark, BBC Talking Books *
'Fascinating, horrifying, powerful, and quite beautifully told.' * Irish Examiner *
'A powerful tale of wartime Singapore and the shame of silence...haunting... Read it and weep, read it and marvel, but above all, read it.' * South China Morning Post *
'Culturally authentic...the writing has grace.' * Sunday Times *
'The brilliance of the writing makes it harder to bear. It's powerful and profound.' * Irish Independent *
'A haunting and vivid account of Singapore's fall...beautifully crafted... A writer to watch from a fascinating part of Asia where great civilisations meet.' * Prospect *
'Compelling... a visceral yet tender exploration of truth and its consequences, and the redemptive power of memory.' * Irish Times *
'A beautifully written, suspenseful story of redemption and healing.' * Booklist (Starred Review) *
'An elegiac and at times extremely harrowing novel... How We Disappeared bears unflinching testimony to war crimes that are still on the brink of living memory.' * The Straits Times, Singapore *
'A beautifully controlled novel that tells an utterly compelling and important story. Jing-Jing Lee's prose is crystal clear, the narrative scope is sweeping and devastating, and the story is as deeply felt and well observed as it is captivating.' * Caoilinn Hughes, author of Orchid & the Wasp *
'Lee's harrowing novel ventures into one of Singapore's darkest periods... This novel bears unflinching, vital testimony to war crimes and those who have fallen through the cracks of history.' * The Straits Times, Best Books of 2019 *
'This novel unflinchingly examines the horrific acts carried out in Singapore during the Second World War, but manages to be hopeful and uplifting, too.' * Sunday Express *
'Raises poignant questions regarding multi-generational trauma, accelerated modernization, and changing identity... Lee vibrantly describes life in pre-occupation Singapore, managing to cinch both the particularity and the universality of oppression.' * Singapore Unbound *
'Jing-Jing Lee writes like a poet... This was a hard story to tell, to hear and to read, but it is also an important story which demands to exist and Jing-Jing Lee has brought it to life... Congratulations. Every single hour I spent reading this was an hour which could not have been better spent.' * Catherine Chanter, author of The Well *
'Heartbreaking and meticulously researched, this novel is a meditation on the legacy of violence.' * Book Riot *
'A heartbreaking story told with such humanity and grace. The details of How We Disappeared are so vivid they return to me in dreams.' * Marti Leimbach, bestselling author of Dying Young and Daniel Isn't Talking *
'A shattering, tender and absorbing novel... Meticulously researched, exquisitely written, with characters that will live and breathe in your heart long after you finish the last page... I'm reeling from its power-what an absolute triumph.' * Fiona Mitchell, author of The Maid's Room *
'The dazzling storytelling illuminates the brutalities of life in Japanese-occupied Singapore... Haunting, harrowing, sweeping and compelling, this is a courageous story of survival, memory, and how we deal with trauma.' * LoveReading *
'How We Disappeared is a masterpiece of storytelling. Evocative and heart rending, it tells of one woman's survival in occupied Singapore, and the quest of a child to solve a family mystery. It is beautifully written, exquisitely crafted, and utterly compelling.' * Mary Chamberlain, author of The Dressmaker of Dachau and The Hidden *
'Based on true events, which Lee gives a dignified voice to. Deeply affecting.' * Australian Women's Weekly *
'This is a brilliant, heartbreaking story with an unforgettable image of how women were silenced and disappeared by both war and culture.' * Xinran, author of The Good Women of China *
'How We Disappeared is a remarkable, original novel that uncovers the long-silenced atrocities that the 'comfort women' in Singapore suffered at the hands of the Japanese during WWII. Through gorgeous prose, tremendous pathos, and even humor, Jing-Jing Lee portrays the intersection of past and present and the courage to bear witness. How We Disappeared is an important, spell-binding debut." * Spencer Wise, author of The Emperor of Shoes *
'An exquisite mystery, an enthralling novel. Equally touching and intriguing, How We Disappeared is a soaring debut of surviving the unsurvivable [and] a searing and shocking reminder of a history many would like to forget, and of the endurance of the human spirit.' * Eoin Dempsey, author of White Rose, Black Forest *
'Jing-Jing Lee's novel is a testament to...strength in the face of profound cruelty.' * OUTinPerth *
'Memory and forgetting are at the heart of How We Disappeared... Lee's novel shines a light into the darkest chapter of Singapore's history.' * SA Weekend *
'A powerful and confronting story... How We Disappeared puts a blowtorch to our emotions.' * Qantas magazine, Travel Insider *
'A story of survival and endurance in Japanese-occupied Singapore.' * Deccan Herald *

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