The last book I am choosing for Foodie Read is Colin Cheong's Tangerine. I chose to read this book because it was the winner of the 1996 Singapore Literature Prize. In summary, it is about how Nick, a young Singaporean photojournalist, travels by himself from Saigon to Hanoi to meet up with his old friends. Throughout the week-long journey, he tries to mix in with the locals. He travels in crowded buses and lives in inexpensive hostels. He reflects on himself and his relationship with the whole world in general.
I had not been to Vietnam and had expected it to be a travelogue that would go into detail about the different places that Nick visited. However, the book focus more on the people he met along the way and reflects on the Vietnamese’s post-war sentiments. Some local dishes were mentioned too but not much.
I took 3 months to read the book. Partly because I find it boring and slightly confusing in the beginning. There were quite a number of flashbacks and many characters so I got confused and started to re-read the whole book again. Sad to say but it was only from the middle the of book, I started to enjoy reading. Nick was talking to Denise and Margaret, his fellow travellers whom he met on the bus, that why he remains as a single because of the 5C expectation of Singaporeans. This is something I could relate to.
And why the book was named Tangerine. I guessed probably Nick had tangerines with him every since he left the airport and he gave them to a Vietnamese who always ask for price but refused to buy tangerines from every tangerine girls they met.
At the end of the story whereby he finally united with his friends for a gathering, he realised he and his friends had the common frames of references, but he would never see things the way they do. Somewhat I feel Nick has more compassion and attentive than his friends. The ending left my heart feeling warm.