I knew I’d love Last Tang Standing from the moment I picked it up. Scratch that, I knew it from the minute I downloaded it when I got approved for the review copy – reading the blurb is enough to fall in love with it. This book is about choosing your life – to live it the way you want to, or to live it the way everybody else wants you to. The writing is witty and the book is quite upbeat, full of self-deprecating humour – and it’s also not set in the West! It’s got everything going for it. I absolutely loved Last Tang Standing, and I’m sure you will too.
Check out on Goodreads
★★★★✬ 4.5 stars
How I read this:
free review copy from Edelweiss
Andrea Tang is a successful lawyer living in multi-cultural Singapore, herself of Chinese-Malaysian descent. She likes her life, despite her family always reminding her that apparently, she shouldn’t – as she’s a woman over 30, and still single. Freshly out of a break-up in an 8 year long relationship, Andrea is both panicked at being alone, and not really ready to dive into a new relationship yet. As pressure from both inside her own self and her family mounts, Andrea tries to make herself “make it work” – with interesting developments and a lot to be learned about what she truly wants from her life.
This book is marketed as the cross between Crazy Rich Asians and Bridget Jones’s Diary and I have to say, it fits!
So Why Did I Love Last Tang Standing So Much?
First of all, Last Tang Standing is hilarious! It starts off with Andrea going to a family gathering, in a sort of bantery dialogue with herself, explaining to us why it’s such a peril to be a woman of at least partly Chinese descent and still be unmarried, *gasp*, in your thirties. Then we get all the info we need to know about such gatherings, at least according to Andrea – that they’re essentially meant to bully the single over 30’s children about, well, being single over 30. There are so many societal and familial expectations placed on people – and this book pokes fun at them.If you know what it means to roll your eyes at your extended family for lecturing you about your unmarried state, despite it being incredibly NOT. THEIR. BUSINESS – then Last Tang Standing will certainly ring a bell: Click To Tweet
I’ve heard from my Asian friends (of multiple nationalities) that this is a big issue for women in Asia – and while it’s not as bad where I live, I have certainly had to deal with the same thing in life. That’s why I can say that it’s painfully funny to read about it – I mean, I don’t suppose you need to be Asian to understand – it’s enough to be a woman, cause I imagine a lot of cultures do this as well. And yet, Last Tang Standing somehow manages to make it all sound hilarious! I really don’t know how, because those are mostly painful subjects – but nearly every single paragraph made me laugh. What a brilliant writing style!
Oh, and do you know what the title of the book means? Not really a spoiler, but I’m going to cover it anyway. You’ll never guess.
The Book Is Very Interesting If You’re Unfamiliar With The Culture
It’s such a perfect book for a foreigner to read! I have next to no knowledge about life in Singapore – and yet, I didn’t feel lost reading this book at all, because I feel it’s probably geared towards foreigners? Things are explained very well and I loved learning all the detail – I normally google foods, clothes and other unknown terms when I’m reading a book not set in Europe (where I live) – but Last Tang Standing actually did an amazing job explaining most of these terms organically – not even in footnotes, but just conversationally. It’s an absolutely brilliant reading experience because of that.
So because of that conversational style, it’s especially funny how all the rich society intricacies are explained – how you’re supposed to gift only this amount of money and no less because you’ll lose face, for example. There are lots of little things like that throughout this book and it made me very interested to learn more about societies in countries further away from mine. Now I want to find more books like this one (so recommendations are super welcome!)
An amazing view of Singapore in the early evening – with bright skyscrapers, incredible-looking colorful light structures and reflections in the surrounding water. Photo courtesy of creator on Pixabay
What I also liked is the self-deprecating attitude – some social mores are needlessly complicated and demonstrative, and the characters laugh at themselves for having to live through that. All cultures have these things where you know you’re doing something that makes life harder and may even be pointless, but you laugh at yourself and keep going, because it is YOUR culture and what else are you going to do, right? I really liked the attitude in regard to this because it was refreshing, and yet still helped me learn more about the culture.Last Tang Standing presents a vivid picture of Singaporean life, brilliantly accessible to the foreign reader. It is a gem and a treat to read: Click To Tweet
The Problem Of Casual Racism Viewed As Tradition
This book talks a lot about the problem of, I don’t know how better to call it – traditional racism, I guess? Where a family of a certain heritage wants their children to only marry someone from the same kind of background – especially if they’re all living abroad, in an eclosed smaller society within the local one.
This greatly restricts the ‘dating options pool’ of the children in question, and really limits their ability to actually find someone to fall in love with – as how it’s stated in the book, someone who was born in another country and lived there all their lives might have more in common with other expats of other heritages, rather than a person of their own heritage who comes from another country and didn’t share the same experiences, interests and frustrations when growing up. It’s confusing enough to be an expat or a second generation immigrant, but this ‘traditional racism’ that makes it unacceptable to marry or date people of other races or heritages is a real problem.
The book criticizes the phenomenon a lot and the whole story is like a critique of it. And I really enjoyed that the book does this with humor – a critique doesn’t have to be serious or sad all the time. It can definitely make you laugh. Drives the point home even better.
First World Problems, Though?
There is one thing about Last Tang Stanging though that I’m ambivalent about. You absolutely have to know that you’re going to be reading about a lot of very ‘first world’ problems. Of people who are probably way richer than you. You have to be absolutely okay with that and understand that that’s what the book is about, and the complaining about really unimportant stuff is part of the joke.
Some days when my mood was lower, I found it hard to deal with the fact that someone’s complaining about rain in a free trip to what was basically heaven in the Maldives. But those days, I just put the book away.
An image of a resort hut on the beach in the Maldives, to spark your imagination as to the first world problems I’m talking about. Photo courtesy of creator Romaneau on Pixabay
Other days I was perfectly fine with laughing at ‘half-rich people problems’, even though it’s problems I’ll never have and can’t really relate to – it was still funny.
So if you think you may take these things too seriously, the book may not be for you. But if you think you won’t have a problem with it, then the book is absolutely hilarious and loads of fun. Plus, you get a glimpse into the world of high-achieving, well-off lawyers who are clearly lying to themselves that they love sitting in the office for 12 hours every day, while drinking themselves into a stupor every weekend!
I think that’s part of the charm of this book – being transported into a setting that most of us can only experience as a book or movie and then learning that they too have problems which they take just as seriously as we, ahem, the ‘simpler folk’ take ours (by ‘simpler folk’, I am obviously referring to myself. You may have a Ferrari parked outside your three story house, for all I know!)
So it was still fun seeing this colorful and complicated world that Andrea lives in. Even if she complains about rain and no internet in the Maldives.
Last Tang Standing is definitely recommended! I really loved it, and it made me laugh a lot. It’s a light-hearted book, meant to make you forget your life and deep dive into a world you may never have experienced. It certainly made for a great read.
I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
So do you have any interesting, not-Western-setting stories for me to read? Recommend away! And it’s a bonus if they’re hilarious!
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.