Review: Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan


Title: Sarong Party Girls

Author: Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Published: September 3rd 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

Sarong Party Girls is the first fiction novel by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a New York City-based food and fashion writer who was born and raised in Singapore.

The term ‘Sarong Party Girl’ is a largely derogatory reference in Singapore to women who exclusively pursue Caucasian men as romantic partners, spurning ah bengs (Chinese/Singaporean men), whom they generally hold in low regard. Tan’s protagonist is 26 year old Jazelin (aka Lin Boon Huag) who is on the hunt for the ultimate Singaporean status symbol, an ang moh husband, but competition is fierce, and Jazzy isn’t getting any younger. She, along with her closest friends Imo and Fann, spend almost every night in Singapore’s exclusive clubs and bars hoping to meet the man of their dreams. Provocatively dressed, they dance, flirt, drink, and sometimes sleep, with any western man who looks sideways at them. But as Jazzy steps up her campaign to win the affection of a suitable ang mah, she is slowly forced to reconsider the lifestyle she has chosen.

Not being familiar with the Singaporean culture I appreciated reading a book set in the country. I have heard a few stories from people who have spent time in Singapore that seems to confirm at least some elements of Tan’s portrayal of the city’s nightlife, including the behaviour of Sarong Party Girls, and the exploitation of women in both personal and professional arena’s. I was surprised to learn of the apparent social acceptance of girlfriends, mistresses, and even second families, for married Chinese/Singaporean men.

I really don’t see any similarities between Jane Austen’s Emma, and Sarong Party Girls as suggested by the publisher, other than the general desire of the women for an advantageous match in marriage. If there is an Austen character whom Jazzy resembles at all, it’s probably Lydia in Pride and Prejudice who is so focused on the idea of gaining status and wealth via marriage, she ignores the reality of the choices she makes in pursuit of her goal.

The element I probably most enjoyed about Sarong Party Girls was the Singlish patios used, which I found easy to decipher with context. The rhythm seemed natural and helped to illustrate both character and setting.

A glimpse into a culture quite different from my experience, I liked Sarong Party Girls well enough, it’s well written, and entertaining.


Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. joannechillhouse
    Oct 08, 2019 @ 13:09:55

    Sounds interesting.



  2. 1girl2manybooks
    Oct 09, 2019 @ 18:11:57

    Sounds like we felt the same way about this one

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  4. the most constant
    Nov 03, 2019 @ 14:05:49

    I have this on my shelf but haven’t read yet. Glad to read your review. I was cut if it would be similar to Crazy Rich Asians or not.



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