3.38 (2,487 ratings by Goodreads)
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Shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Fiction with a Sense of Place Award.
Longlisted for the Jhalak Prize.

'Remarkable . . . her characters glow with life and humour' Ian McEwan

2003. Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing seances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, they develop an intense friendship which offers Szu an escape from her mother's alarming solitariness, and Circe a step closer to the fascinating, unknowable Amisa.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series 'Ponti', the very project that defined Amisa's short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience . . .

Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti by Sharlene Teo is an exquisite story of friendship and memory spanning decades. Infused with mythology and modernity, with the rich sticky heat of Singapore, it is at once an astounding portrayal of the gaping loneliness of teenagehood, and a vivid exploration of how tragedy can make monsters of us.

Shortlisted for Hearsts' Big Book Award 2018.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 142 x 223 x 28mm | 443g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main Market Ed
  • 1509855319
  • 9781509855315
  • 127,687

Review quote

Remarkable . . . With brilliant descriptive power and human warmth, Sharlene Teo summons the darker currents of modernity . . . her characters glow with life and humour and minutely observed desperation -- Ian McEwan A radiant, achingly beautiful novel about relationships between women -- Megan Hunter, author of The End We Start From A triumph: a nuanced examination of betrayal and grief, memory and the corrupting effects of beauty * Sunday Times * With its thoughtful plot and vibrant prose, Ponti is one of the more assured debuts I've read recently . . . Too many first novels coast along on a fad-like buzz rather than the promise of a genuine upward trajectory, but everything about Ponti suggests it's the rare, real deal and Teo's a writer we'll be reading for many years to come. * Financial Times * An unforgettable story of female friendship * Elle Magazine * A vivid coming-of-age debut . . . Teo artfully collects various stories and rolls them into one seamless narrative . . . Teo is brilliant in her portrayal of teenage anxiety * Guardian * Every now and then, as a writer, you read a debut that feels so fully formed and on its feet, that part of you blanches at the failings of your own debut . . . Ponti is one of the most exciting books I have read in ages . . . There's something so effortless about Teo's prose, which captures Singapore from the late 1960s up to 2020. The book is as funny as it is strange, it is complex as it is light . . . Teo manages to spin the time period with ease and keep the reader utterly engrossed . . . Teo is an exciting author and Ponti is step one of a long illustrious career. It deserves prizes -- Nikesh Shukla A startlingly poetic and impressive debut * Independent * Witty, moving and richly evocative, Ponti paints a portrait of a country and a people negotiating the throes of modernity. It also announces a major talent - Sharlene Teo has produced not just a singular debut, but a milestone in South East Asian literature -- Tash Aw, author of Five Star Billionaire This haunting debut hopscotches between decades and cultures, eschewing the usual moves of the coming-of-age story for something truer to the desperate, surreal stakes of adolescence. Sharlene Teo is a daring and genuinely original novelist -- Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You Strange and compelling . . . a breath of fictional fresh air -- Shena Mackay, Kate Summerscale, and Owen Sheers, judges of the Deborah Rogers Writers Award Spanning 17 years and told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is a stunning first novel with a wry, rebellious heart * AnOther * Teo's vivid, disquieting debut is set in sweltering Singapore . . . a sparky but sad book, charting faltering mother-daughter relationships and the intensity of teenage friendships, while explaining how past mistakes can creep into conscience years later * Daily Mail * The loneliness of adolescence is a monstrosity manifesting in equally ugly and poetic ways. Ponti is a weird and beautiful bildungsroman and Teo's writing shines as totally radical * The Skinny * Ponti is darkly hilarious. It offers up all the anxiety, snark, sadness, and wonder of being a teenager. Teo guides us through the grunge of growing up. She asks what it means to be a monster and what it means to be beautiful. Is it possible to be both? -- Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You Teo's debut stands out from the crowd . . . the offbeat charm of this lush tale proves a stealthy delivery mechanism for a quiet tragedy of intergenerational misunderstanding * Metro * A sticky, atmospheric tale of resentment and loneliness * Tatler * Teo's portrait of Singapore is so good it would not be a surprise if Ponti were a contender for the next Ondaatje Prize, awarded to a work that best evokes "spirit of a place". People talk about "the great American novel", or, in Britain, "the state of the nation novel". Ponti is a great Singaporean novel, and a marvelous investigation of the state of the tiny island nation * South China Morning Post * You know those books you can read again? And again? And again? Well, prepare for Sharlene Teo's incredible Ponti . . . a densely layered story of a fading horror actress, Amisa; her unhappy teenage daughter, Szu and her acid-tongued best friend, Circe, which jumps from generations, decades and viewpoints, weaving in unsettling myths to boot . . . entrancing . . . A modern gem * Emerald Street * Ponti's cultural commentary and multi-generational chorus of voices do indeed recall White Teeth [by Zadie Smith], while its unflinching depiction of young female friendship echoes Smith's most recent, Swing Time . . . by the time the novel has finished, there is no denying Amisa's dream has been realised. These three women and their stories will live on; they have been made immortal. * Independent Ireland * Exquisite, lush and menacing . . . the Singapore in Sharlene Teo's Ponti is vivid and immediate, its people complex, beautifully sketched and captivating . . . colourful and bewitching * TLS * Funny, achingly dark and drawn with scalpel-like precision, Ponti is one of the wittiest debut novels of 2018 * The Pool * Ponti by Sharlene Teo is a sultry, hilarious dissection of mother-daughter relationships, and the effect of time and teenagehood on friendships, against the backdrop of Singapore B-movies. It oozes confidence. -- Nikesh Shukla * Guardian, Best summer books 2018 * On their own, Teo's sharp characterizations and setting-so alive that the book seems to create its own, humid microclimate-would set this book apart. Add to that her imaginative plot, prose that turns from humor to devastation on a dime, and original storytelling, and Ponti is a beyond-promising debut. * Booklist (starred review) * The story, told with dark humor by an exciting new voice, navigates the intricacies and weirdness of human connections, and the impressions they leave behind * Huffington Post *
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About Sharlene Teo

Sharlene Teo was born in Singapore in 1987. She has an LLB in Law from the University of Warwick and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she received the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship and the David TK Wong Creative Writing award. She was shortlisted for the Berlin Writing Prize and holds fellowships from the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the University of Iowa International Writing Program. In 2016, she won the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer's Award for Ponti, her first novel.
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Rating details

2,487 ratings
3.38 out of 5 stars
5 12% (288)
4 33% (831)
3 39% (971)
2 13% (330)
1 3% (67)
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