If I Could Tell You

If I Could Tell You

Jing-Jing Lee / May 27, 2019

If I Could Tell You When nothing is really yours not even the flat you grew up in just where do you call home The residents of Block have a few months before their building is torn down before they are scattered t

  • Title: If I Could Tell You
  • Author: Jing-Jing Lee
  • ISBN:
  • Page: 280
  • Format: Paperback
  • When nothing is really yours, not even the flat you grew up in, just where do you call home The residents of Block 204 have a few months before their building is torn down, before they are scattered throughout the island into smaller, assigned flats All of them know they will still be struggling to fit their lives into the new flats years later but no one protests No one When nothing is really yours, not even the flat you grew up in, just where do you call home The residents of Block 204 have a few months before their building is torn down, before they are scattered throughout the island into smaller, assigned flats All of them know they will still be struggling to fit their lives into the new flats years later but no one protests No one talks about it even as they are slowly being pushed out of their homes Not Cardboard Lady, an eighty year old woman who sells scraps for a living Not young Alex, who is left homeless after a falling out with Cindy Not Ah Tee, who has worked at the coffee shop on the ground floor of Block 204 for much of his adult life, and whose reaction to the move affects his neighbours in different ways.For some, the tragedy that occurs during their last days in Block 204 is a reminder of old violence, aged wounds For others, new opportunities transpire If I Could Tell You is about silence, the keeping and breaking of it, and what comes after Get A Copy Kindle Store Online StoresAudibleBarnes NobleWalmart eBooksApple BooksGoogle PlayAbebooksBook DepositoryIndigoAlibrisBetter World BooksIndieBoundLibraries Or buy for Paperback, 196 pages Published January 21st 2013 by Marshall Cavendish International More Details ISBN13 9789814398626 Edition Language English Literary Awards POPULAR Readers Choice Awards for English Adult 2013 Other Editions 1 All Editions Add a New Edition Combine Less Detail edit details Friend Reviews To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up Reader QA To ask other readers questions about If I Could Tell You, please sign up

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    Lists with This Book This book is not yet featured on Listopia Add this book to your favorite list Community Reviews Showing 1 30 Rating details Sort Default Filter Nov 17, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing Beginning in the 1950s Glasgow s clearance programme relocated some 300,000 of the city s residents, many to so called new towns like East Kilbride and Cumbernauld, others to the outskirts of the city in areas like Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Easterhouse What could these people possibly have in common with residents in a tower block in Singapore One word community If you ve ever listened to someone who lived in one the affected areas places like the Gorbals you ll understand These were tight Beginning in the 1950s Glasgow s clearance programme relocated some 300,000 of the city s residents, many to so called new towns like East Kilbride and Cumbernauld, others to the outskirts of the city in areas like Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Easterhouse What could these people possibly have in common with residents in a tower block in Singapore One word community If you ve ever listened to someone who lived in one the affected areas places like the Gorbals you ll understand These were tight knit communities where everyone knew everyone else and then overnight seemingly they were torn apart And that s what we have here Although this novel feels like a collection of short stories most don t stand too well on their own but supported by their neighbours see where I m going with this they form a rounded out picture of what life has been like in Block 204 for the handful of residents whose lives we get to peek inside briefly The book begins with Ah Tee This place He grew up here He has lived in Block 204 all his life How long that life has been we never find out But he s old That we do know And he s just lost his job at the coffee shop He passed two other shops on his way A hairdresser s and a grocery store Both closed their owners had found some place else to set up their businesses and relocated long ago, unlike Boss, who decided to sell up, work for a larger chain of coffee shops the money was better, he said, and it was less work He looked abashed when he told this to Ah Tee, said he would try to get him another job, he would That was months ago Nothing had come of it The neighbourhood is winding down Those left the old, the poor, people who have had trouble finding a new home Or those who put it off because it didn t seem real have received their eviction notices they have until the end of the month Ah Tee is preparing to move he s got some boxes from Cardboard Auntie but where to start The next thing there s a stir amongst the neighbours A body is lying at the base of the block of flats Ah Tee It s a sad beginning to what is essentially a sad book but it s how Lee finds her way into the lives of the few hangers on that are left because no one can ignore a dead body But as one resident notes I knew the guy and never really saw him until he was dead Everyone has a story but so few of us get to tell ours They re not big stories No one in Block 204 has lived an epic life Most have simply managed to survive theirs.Probably the most interesting of the characters so much so that Lee is currently writing a sequel featuring her is the woman everyone knows as Cardboard Auntie who refuses to subsist on hand outs and so collects cardboard and drinks tins things that were still useful trading them in for a bit of money She s lived in Block 204 for forty years and wanders through most of the stories, in the background, but it s not until late on in the book we learn her story and what exactly she meant when she said, I could have been a mother but I let him die The same with Ah Tee Like Cardboard Auntie he s there or at least the memory of him is there throughout the book but he s than a corpse.There are others a nameless Bangladeshi worker who came to Singapore in hopes of finding a better future for himself and his family back home I m sure many Eastern Europeans in the UK will be able to relate to him , a young lesbian whose religious parents want nothing to do with her, a woman who had to sacrifice an education to care for her family, a taxi driver who believes in the local superstition that betting using numbers connected to a dead person will bring him luck, the boy and his dog who are on the ground when the jumper lands and see him die and mostly their stories are told in two or three discontiguous segments, the first revealing a truth and then later we re privy to a deeper truth A good example is where we re presented with events firstly from a wife s perspective and then from the husband s when we learn why he s surly She ll never know Life will go on In the new place.This is the first book in years that I ve read in one sitting I was a kid the last time I managed that It took me the best part of three hours but I just kept turning those pages I d never describe this book as a page turner gives the wrong impression but the fact is it is That any author could hold my attention like that is something Okay it wasn t the longest of books and that helped but still, kudos to her.As always it puzzles the hell out of me how people could give a book like this one or two stars But that s the problem with stars and why I never use them on my blog I m giving the book five stars but if you were to ask me to list my top twenty favourite books she wouldn t be on it and yet many authors who ve got four stars would Not sure anything less than a four would I think the difference is staying power If I even remember reading this book in two or three years times then who s to say But today I find myself quite taken with it and want to give away copies to all my friends.There s an interesting interview with her on her website here flag 2 likesLike see review Feb 26, 2013 Bob Wake rated it it was amazing From neglected children and lost young adults, to the developmentally disabled and the forgotten elderly, If I Could Tell You is narrated by a wide range of multigenerational and multicultural voices The setting for Lee Jing Jing s graceful debut novel is both exotic and excruciating A condemned public housing apartment building in Singapore Most of its residents have been relocated The skeleton crew of remaining occupants comprise the old, the poor, people who have had trouble finding a ne From neglected children and lost young adults, to the developmentally disabled and the forgotten elderly, If I Could Tell You is narrated by a wide range of multigenerational and multicultural voices The setting for Lee Jing Jing s graceful debut novel is both exotic and excruciating A condemned public housing apartment building in Singapore Most of its residents have been relocated The skeleton crew of remaining occupants comprise the old, the poor, people who have had trouble finding a new home The novel s opening pages include a jumper from the upper floors lying dead on the pavement below.The jumper s death haunts the neighborhood if not the television news I guess it was much too ordinary, muses a middle aged unemployed electronics engineer, dismayed by the absence of media coverage His thoughts return again and again to the tragedy Soon his dreams are enveloped in apocalyptic imagery Then I was on the ground, below the block of flats, looking up while the building leaned to the right, tossing my wife and daughter out of the naked window The building crashed to the ground like a felled tree, but slowly, silently, as if the weight of it was nothing than a browned leaf, a scrap of paper All the while, I just stood and watched and did nothing, my hands hanging by my sides, my feet heavy as rocks The dream stayed with me the rest of the day I could hardly look at my wife and daughter during breakfast.Lee Jing Jing, currently living in Germany, has spoken in a newspaper interview about her public housing upbringing in Singapore the book s cover photo, taken by the author, depicts a now demolished block of apartments where her aunt once lived While If I Could Tell You immerses us in poverty and broken lives, nothing here is sensationalized or made mawkish The unwavering matter of factness of the storytelling yields enormous narrative and dramatic power as the novel unfolds.Language barriers add to the isolation of some characters, such as an eighty year old Cantonese speaking Chinese woman known in the neighborhood as Cardboard Auntie because she collects cardboard box scraps and sells them from a cart on the streets Cardboard Auntie s impoverished external life masks a roiling internal world of brutal memories Tch, I ve seen worse When the Japanese were here Much worse and borderline delusional conversations with her deceased husband, whom she addresses as the Old One Old One, what do you want for lunch Fan wat ze jook Rice or porridge If I Could Tell You is not without a kind of mordant Hitchcockian humor the jumper s falling body is witnessed by multiple characters, often out of the corner of the eye, allowing the author to replay the gruesome event from a variety of subliminal perspectives something fell through the air, close enough that they felt and heard the whoosh as it went past them It s a rare debut novel that s written with such assured mastery of style and tone The final pages give voice to a character whose despair is so complete that it would be unendurable for most of us By focusing on the rich inner lives of its societal outcasts, If I Could Tell You tells us plenty Lee Jing Jing has written as fine a work of literary fiction as you re likely to read this year flag 2 likesLike see review Feb 20, 2013 Wong1st rated it really liked it I read this book slowly, that s because I didn t want to miss anything, everything written was so vivid I can picture myself into it, scene by scene page by page.It s very well written with different perspectives of multiple characters But I expected longer time frame of the stories flag 2 likesLike see review Jan 15, 2013 Erik Boman rated it it was amazing If I could Tell You is a tender mosaic of the inhabitants of a tower block that faces destruction The narration is omniscient and omnipresent, circling in and out of the buildings and the minds of its inhabitants This forms an intriguing collage of voices, but Jing does not stop at intertwining the characters stories they also reflect each other to give the reader insight in misconceptions and conflicting ideas.Hovering in the corner of each person s story is a man s suicide The death and If I could Tell You is a tender mosaic of the inhabitants of a tower block that faces destruction The narration is omniscient and omnipresent, circling in and out of the buildings and the minds of its inhabitants This forms an intriguing collage of voices, but Jing does not stop at intertwining the characters stories they also reflect each other to give the reader insight in misconceptions and conflicting ideas.Hovering in the corner of each person s story is a man s suicide The death and its implications are present throughout the book, and there is an echo of a man s quick fall in how the narrative progresses through the lives of the many characters However, the suicide, or rather its immediately preceding moments, are pared back in a sensitive manner, and thereby form a frame as delicate as the lives of the other characters.Much attention is given to details and objects, which reinforces the sense of day to day lives derailed and confused by the slow evacuation of the building Stylistically, the dialogue almost blends with the narrative, and while this establishes a particular tone, I would not have minded if the dialogue had been kept separate from the narrative as I sometimes felt that some characters voices were subdued by the many rich descriptions.I recommend If I could Tell You to anyone interested in absorbing dramas The strong characterisations, along with assured telling and discreet but palpably careful plotting, are what make this novel a thoroughly engaging read In particular, some of the final chapters are both beautiful and haunting.The story lingers with me, and I expect it will do so for some time flag 1 likeLike see review Jan 20, 2013 Jason Lundberg rated it really liked it Shelves 0wnz0red, novels novellas A heartfelt and polyphonous examination of the lives of residents displaced by an en bloc HDB sale The most tragic of these is Ah Tee, a coffee stall worker whose suicide at the start of the book is the connecting thread that ties all of the various narrative threads of this mosaic novel together Characters come and go throughout the book, and by the end, we have a fairly comprehensive study of how they have been affected by the desperate voluntary death of a man to whom they paid so little at A heartfelt and polyphonous examination of the lives of residents displaced by an en bloc HDB sale The most tragic of these is Ah Tee, a coffee stall worker whose suicide at the start of the book is the connecting thread that ties all of the various narrative threads of this mosaic novel together Characters come and go throughout the book, and by the end, we have a fairly comprehensive study of how they have been affected by the desperate voluntary death of a man to whom they paid so little attention while he was still alive Many facets of Singaporean society are examined here, in careful and honest ways, and especial attention is paid to the marginalized and disenfranchised.Because of the nature of this multifaceted examination, the novel does not have the feeling of progression, even at the end, when Ah Tee is finally given a voice in the days and weeks before his fatal leap from the top of the HDB block The result is that the novel seems to exist in a bubble, as though by being evicted from their homes and forced to live elsewhere, the characters are flash frozen in amber, unable to move forward It s difficult to see a future for these people following the end of the book, even though a future must exist for them in that fictional realm However, this may have been the author s intention, as uncomfortable as it may make the reader flag 1 likeLike see review Mar 30, 2013 Xomez Moraine rated it liked it This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here for me, this book is ok to be read but not as interesting as i want to flag 1 likeLike see review Nov 29, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it I enjoyed reading stories of people who live in a typical Singaporean housing development flag 1 likeLike see review Aug 22, 2017 Kes rated it really liked it Shelves want to own, singapore, fiction, read 2017 This is a gorgeous book that relies entirely on the execution on the stories of people who live in the block of flats I love the writing it s poetic, and relies a lot on imagery and shared experience It goes into what lies unsaid in conversation We stood there for a few minutes, leaning over the railing, looking down There were people walking out of the building and in People my age just coming back from school, this girl nearly toppling backwards from the weight of her schoolbag There This is a gorgeous book that relies entirely on the execution on the stories of people who live in the block of flats I love the writing it s poetic, and relies a lot on imagery and shared experience It goes into what lies unsaid in conversation We stood there for a few minutes, leaning over the railing, looking down There were people walking out of the building and in People my age just coming back from school, this girl nearly toppling backwards from the weight of her schoolbag There were a few elderly people playing chess or watching other people playing chess at the stone tables There was the really old lady with the cart, going out with it empty and hoping to get cardboard and things to fill it with And birds quarrelling on a branch, like they were fighting for space We stood there and just watched Maybe this was what he was doing last Monday The man Just staring and staring until he felt like he had to be down there, with all the other people And the only way he could do it, the quickest way, the best way, was to jump flag Like see review Jul 27, 2017 Alice Dalena rated it it was amazing It was a very meaningful novel, looking into the lives of different people who had lived in the same HDB block for years and mingled with each other, and they had to move to new places because of the HDB redevelopment plans I enjoyed the different glimpses into the lives of different people living in Block 204 It talked briefly about their past and their present, and compared between them I too enjoyed how the author included details about how we Singaporeans led our lives in this era, comp It was a very meaningful novel, looking into the lives of different people who had lived in the same HDB block for years and mingled with each other, and they had to move to new places because of the HDB redevelopment plans I enjoyed the different glimpses into the lives of different people living in Block 204 It talked briefly about their past and their present, and compared between them I too enjoyed how the author included details about how we Singaporeans led our lives in this era, comparing to the lives our parents generation and grandparents generation had led flag Like see review Jan 24, 2017 David Goode rated it liked it Shelves books i own, read 2017 Rating 5.75 10This book is a collection of intersecting shorts based around a HDB building being torn down in Singapore and all the residents being displaced to newer smaller homes I bought it while in Singapore at Kinokuniya For those close to me, you ll know my beautiful wife is Singaporean and I guess I wanted to get some literary insight into her homeland Jing Jing is Singaporean.The book starts slow and the voices are unconvincing, but then it picks up and life starts to develop in the Rating 5.75 10This book is a collection of intersecting shorts based around a HDB building being torn down in Singapore and all the residents being displaced to newer smaller homes I bought it while in Singapore at Kinokuniya For those close to me, you ll know my beautiful wife is Singaporean and I guess I wanted to get some literary insight into her homeland Jing Jing is Singaporean.The book starts slow and the voices are unconvincing, but then it picks up and life starts to develop in the characters narratives By the end of it I was actually quite invested Started in the fours and ended nearly as a six out of ten A short satisfying read.1 10 Perfect for starting a cozy fire at home.2 10 Drudgery Not even worth borrowing from a friend.3 10 Forgettable.4 10 Maybe some pockets of goodness, but still forgettable.5 10 A mostly fulfilling read While some things left me feeling bleargh , there was to like than dislike 6 10 A satisfying and at most times a compelling read.7 10 Definitely worth the time, brilliant writing, recommended heartily.8 10 Will most likely recommend it to your cat it s that good.9 10 How is this writing even possible A book you put down even three pages and think, Are you for real A true masterpiece.10 10 flag Like see review May 14, 2013 Judith rated it it was ok I don t usually write reviews of the books that I ve read, but because I received this in a giveaway, I thought that this time, I should Two stars seems like a pretty low rating, but let me start out by saying that I did not hate the book I d never read a book set in Singapore before, so I thought it was fascinating to get a look into parts of Singaporean culture The book was well written, and it was a quick and pleasant read The vignette style set up was interesting, but at the same time, u I don t usually write reviews of the books that I ve read, but because I received this in a giveaway, I thought that this time, I should Two stars seems like a pretty low rating, but let me start out by saying that I did not hate the book I d never read a book set in Singapore before, so I thought it was fascinating to get a look into parts of Singaporean culture The book was well written, and it was a quick and pleasant read The vignette style set up was interesting, but at the same time, using vignettes meant that only a small amount of pages was devoted to each character, so you never really get to know any of them For example, I would have loved to know about Alex, because I m always looking to learn about LGBT issues in other countries The central character of sorts, Ah Tee, was probably the most fleshed out, and I was able to empathize with his sad story Overall, I did like the book, but not enough to push the rating up to 3 I would have given it 2.5 stars if allowed half stars I guess it just wasn t really up my alley flag Like see review May 13, 2013 Melissa Herston rated it liked it In compliance with FTC guidelines I received the book for free through First Reads.This book was slow and meaningful.The story was a multi view point story with several characters Each character really only scratched the surface Visually speaking I was only able to build a picture of one character The others remained in a misty haze Emotionally speaking I was able to build a little stronger picture of each character.The beginning and end were the best parts The rest of the view p In compliance with FTC guidelines I received the book for free through First Reads.This book was slow and meaningful.The story was a multi view point story with several characters Each character really only scratched the surface Visually speaking I was only able to build a picture of one character The others remained in a misty haze Emotionally speaking I was able to build a little stronger picture of each character.The beginning and end were the best parts The rest of the view points were rather slow moving Each view point touched on something that was private and deeply emotional flag Like see review May 05, 2014 Lynda rated it liked it Shelves asian literature, singapore books Set in Singapore in an HDB block of flats that are about to be torn down, this novella tells multiple stories of the residents surrounding the death of Ah Tee He commits suicide by jumping from the top of block 204 in the final days before he has to move to his new flat A mentally disabled fellow, after the death of his mother, he s unable to cope with the change confronting him The heartbreak of the various residents as they struggle with their lives and the expectations of family and the in Set in Singapore in an HDB block of flats that are about to be torn down, this novella tells multiple stories of the residents surrounding the death of Ah Tee He commits suicide by jumping from the top of block 204 in the final days before he has to move to his new flat A mentally disabled fellow, after the death of his mother, he s unable to cope with the change confronting him The heartbreak of the various residents as they struggle with their lives and the expectations of family and the inability to communicate tells a story of Singapore that I have not read and that is largely unknown to the expat flag Like see review Mar 17, 2014 T mbu u marked it as to read Shelves short stories KOBOBOOKS flag Like see review Jun 19, 2013 Maggie rated it it was ok Maybe I was too hyped up about this book Okay so maybe my expectations were extremely high Maybe it s just me It was a dull read for me Slow start and disappointing flag Like see review Apr 09, 2013 Nasih Saifullah rated it it was ok Shelves abandoned It wasn t up to the expectation It was plain Dull start but it got a little bit okay as I read through the first part flag Like see review Victoria Chai rated it it was amazing Sep 06, 2013 Stephanie rated it liked it May 24, 2018 Katherine rated it really liked it Aug 02, 2014 Krithikasshini Ponnambalam rated it it was amazing Apr 29, 2014 Elena Kaufman rated it it was amazing Nov 17, 2015 Charlotte rated it it was amazing May 14, 2017 Divyasree rated it really liked it Nov 30, 2017 Samantha Brown rated it liked it Feb 07, 2017 Cindy rated it it was amazing Oct 31, 2014 Stacey rated it it was amazing Jun 02, 2017 Cathy Atkinson rated it really liked it Jul 11, 2013 Michael rated it did not like it Feb 04, 2013 Caresse rated it it was amazing Apr 08, 2013 Yuan Ling rated it liked it Mar 13, 2013 previous 1 2 next new topicDiscuss This Book There are no discussion topics on this book yet Be the first to start one Share Recommend It Stats Recent Status Updates Readers Also Enjoyed Born and raised in Singapore, Jing Jing graduated from Oxford s Creative Writing Master s 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 Her novel, How We Disappeared, will be out with Oneworld in 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    About "Jing-Jing Lee"

      • Jing-Jing Lee

        Born and raised in Singapore, Jing Jing graduated from Oxford s Creative Writing Master s 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 Her novel, How We Disappear Born and raised in Singapore, Jing Jing graduated from Oxford s Creative Writing Master s 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 Her novel, How We Disappeared, will be out with Oneworld in early 2019


    978 Comments

    1. Beginning in the 1950s Glasgow s clearance programme relocated some 300,000 of the city s residents, many to so called new towns like East Kilbride and Cumbernauld, others to the outskirts of the city in areas like Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Easterhouse What could these people possibly have in common with residents in a tower block in Singapore One word community If you ve ever listened to someone who lived in one the affected areas places like the Gorbals you ll understand These were tight Begi [...]


    2. From neglected children and lost young adults, to the developmentally disabled and the forgotten elderly, If I Could Tell You is narrated by a wide range of multigenerational and multicultural voices The setting for Lee Jing Jing s graceful debut novel is both exotic and excruciating A condemned public housing apartment building in Singapore Most of its residents have been relocated The skeleton crew of remaining occupants comprise the old, the poor, people who have had trouble finding a ne From [...]


    3. I read this book slowly, that s because I didn t want to miss anything, everything written was so vivid I can picture myself into it, scene by scene page by page.It s very well written with different perspectives of multiple characters But I expected longer time frame of the stories.


    4. If I could Tell You is a tender mosaic of the inhabitants of a tower block that faces destruction The narration is omniscient and omnipresent, circling in and out of the buildings and the minds of its inhabitants This forms an intriguing collage of voices, but Jing does not stop at intertwining the characters stories they also reflect each other to give the reader insight in misconceptions and conflicting ideas.Hovering in the corner of each person s story is a man s suicide The death and If I c [...]


    5. A heartfelt and polyphonous examination of the lives of residents displaced by an en bloc HDB sale The most tragic of these is Ah Tee, a coffee stall worker whose suicide at the start of the book is the connecting thread that ties all of the various narrative threads of this mosaic novel together Characters come and go throughout the book, and by the end, we have a fairly comprehensive study of how they have been affected by the desperate voluntary death of a man to whom they paid so little at A [...]


    6. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here for me, this book is ok to be read but not as interesting as i want to



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