Fistful Of Colours

Fistful Of Colours by Suchen Christine Lim | Singapore Literature
ISBN 981 248 012 9
Straits Times Press,
Singapore (3rd ed.)


Suchen’s third novel, Fistful Of Colours,
was awarded the inaugural
Singapore Literature Prize, 1992


Jacket Text


Fistful of Colours is an elegant, multi-layered reflection on what it means to be Singaporean, through a single day in the life of Suwen, a young teacher struggling to define herself as a woman and as an artist.

In her search, she examines the rich history of her stepfather’s family and uncovers the many hopes and trials of Singapore’s early immigrant community – from Chinese coolies and Malay waiters to Indian doctors – nobody is spared the consequences of changing times.

Against this backdrop, Suwen’s friends explore the themes of art, love, freedom and betrayal. Through Suchen Christine Lim’s masterful storytelling and vibrant language, the Singapore of yesterday and today converge.




‘Fistful of Colours is a significant contribution to Singapore’s literature. The story is rich with local flavours and aroma, the characters are vividly drawn and believable, and I particularly empathise with the sad lives of the women in the story.’

~  Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large, Singapore


‘It is fitting that Suchen Christine Lim’s third novel was the inaugural winner of the Singapore Literature Prize. If there were one work of local literature which has attempted to incorporate the history of all four of the city’s main racial groups within its covers, Fistful of Colours would be it. The protagonist is Suwen, a Singaporean Chinese college teacher and sometime artist who, at the start of the book, has mounted an exhibition of erotic paintings, shocking the strait-laced nation and resulting in many outraged letters to the press. But as readers delve into her family’s past and that of her friends’ families, they discover that the seething melting pot of old Singapore was a far cry from the sanitised version today.’

~  Stephanie Yap, The Sunday Times, Singapore


‘This is a book you find difficult to put down once you start reading… The story begins with Suwen, recalling the day her stepfather tried to molest her. This event left her with emotional scars that inhibited her ability to express herself, either in communication with her friends or in her art. It took the betrayal of her friends Mark and Nica to release the pent-up emotions in her…’

~  Zalina Mohd. Lazim,
Tenggara, Journal of SE Asian Literature, Malaysia


‘…the novel presents different modes of narration and then breaks the imperatives of these modes, providing new perspectives, moving away from the linear to the spiral, calling like sculpture for three-dimensional perception. Providing the unwritten story, the novel breaks out of the traps of written texts, even the ones it provides …Lim is re-creating the Singapore identity out of a heterogeneous people yoked together by the demands and histories of various exploiters.’

~  Professor Peter Nazareth, University of Iowa, USA