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The Singapore Grip (Empire Trilogy #3)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  580 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Singapore, 1939: life on the eve of World War II just isn't what it used to be for Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore's oldest and most powerful firm. No matter how forcefully the police break one strike, the natives go on strike somewhere else. His daughter keeps entangling herself with the most unsuitable beaus, while her intended match, the son of Blackett's par ...more
Paperback, 632 pages
Published July 1st 1980 by Berkley Publishing Group (first published 1978)
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Farrell, J. G. THE SINGAPORE GRIP. (1973). *****. This was the third and last of Farrell’s trilogy of novels that dealt with the English colonial systems. The first, “Troubles,” tells of the conditions existing between England and Ireland right after WW I. The second, “The Siege of Krishnapore,” a Booker Prize-winner, is set in India in Farrell’s fictional town ruled by the troops of the East India Company; the time was 1857. This novel is set in Singapore during the start of WW II, and lays out ...more
Molly Ison
This is a good book on its own, but a mediocre book when compared with Troubles and The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell's previous books about the end of the British Empire.

Another review described The Singapore Grip as more heavy-handed than the previous novels and I would agree. It was hard to really get a handle on the story because instead of characters, there were ideologies with names, all trying to get in a soliloquy about their own stances before the next one could take over the conve
Megan Baxter
Warning: some of the characters in this book are immensely irritating! This doesn't make it a bad book, but it did make me want to strangle Walter at regular intervals. And he's fictional. That's an accomplishment.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Grace Tjan
The Siege of Krishnapur succeeds because Farrell let his colonial characters expose their own tragicomic ridiculousness with minimal intervention. Here, in the last novel of his Empire Trilogy, he was much more heavy-handed, resulting in several main characters that are outright caricatures. Walter Blackett, the head of the eponymous British trading firm that grew fat on the pre-war Malayan rubber boom, is the Evil Capitalist-Imperialist-Racist who bumbles through his public and private lives wi ...more
Seth Reeves
Good but not as good as the previous two books in this trilogy on different instances of the British empire interacting poorly with the people they ruled over outside of their own island. The characters were more one-sided and the story had a far more cynical bent than 'Siege of Krishnapur' or 'Troubles.' The characters are divided into two camps, good guys and bad guys, and this was not as interesting to read about as it would have been to balance the characters' personalities a bit more.

I did
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Just a fantastic book in so many ways. It works on so many different levels. It's a great, sprawling character study. It describes a time and a place with what seems like honesty. Even though the characters feel real and are vested with human, interior problems, they also act as stand-ins for larger concept: ineffective idealism, self-justifying capitalism and exploitation, lost innocence; somehow, despite its subject matter, it's funny. I could go on and on.

There is a scene where Farrell descr
James Murphy
The Singapore Grip is the 3d volume of Farrell's Empire Trilogy. Following the gradual destruction of Krishnapur during the 1st volume's depiction of the Sepoy Mutiny and the collapse of an Irish manor house in Troubles, this 3d volume is about the 1941 Japanese invasion of Malaysia and the disintegration of Singapore and British society there. The end of empire, which seems to be Farrell's big theme. The Singapore Grip is my favorite of the 3 novels. I believe it to be the most stylized novel o ...more
Joyce Lagow
Third in Farrell� s Empire trilogy, The Singapore Grip is also the � worst� , a term I emphasize is relative only within the trilogy (The Siege of Krishnapur and Troubles being the first two). Farrell examined the role of the British in their colonial empire� and set them up for ridicule. He succeeded brilliantly with the first two, especially with Troubles, which is a masterpiece. However, there is a boundary line in satire; if you go too far over that line, the figures stop being objects of mo ...more
Patrick McCoy
I had never heard of Irishman J.G. Farrell before coming across this book, The Singapore Grip. It seems that he achieved a lot in his short life (he died while swimming in 1979 at the age of 44). This is the third of his books based on the fall of the British colonial empire known as the —Empire Trilogy— that began with Troubles (Ireland) and the Booker prize-winning Siege of Krishnapur (India). This novel is an epic novel in scope starting in 1939 before Singapore falls to the Japanese. Farrrel ...more
Literary Review The
J.G. Farrell
The Singapore Grip

By Drew Calvert

"The Singapore Grip" was reviewed in The Literary Review
"Loss Control" Fall 2012

The Singapore Grip is the final installment of J.G. Farrell’s “Empire Trilogy,” which chronicles the spectacle of British colonialism over the course of two centuries, from Ireland to India to Southeast Asia. It is also one of the only Anglo-American works of fiction set primarily in the city in which I grew up. I discovered it over a decade ago on
Mike Harper
Two books, really.
The first half or so is a beautiful comedy about colonial, mercantile Singapore just before the fall. The characters are introduced, the stage is set, and aside from the sense of impending doom, life goes on as it has for 50 years. Walter and his horrible daughter Joan are characters you'll love to hate, but you won't know what to think about Matthew, the ineffectual dreamer.
Then come the Japanese, and the comedy pretty much ends. Matthew, the Major, Dupigny, Mr. Wu, Vera Chain
A more scathing indictment of British colonialism, or in fact any form of colonialism is hard to imagine. With humour Farrell unmasks the smug hypocrisy that blanketed acts of complete immorality. Yet the novel although overlong is no didactic creed,the author has the confidence to let the reader draw his own conclusions from a deft and very funny satire and social history.

Upon his fathers death a young idealist is summonsed to Singapore by the very very venal mr Blackett. As the young man stumb
A fitting end to the Empire trilogy, with Farrell digging deep into the consequences of economic colonialism. The devil is in the detail, but so is the richness that prevents Farrell's characters from becoming puppets or mouthpieces for the various ideologies that sustained and sought to undermine the stranglehold of western business in the imperial colonies of the east. I found much of the book moving, particularly the chapter in which Matthew is taken by the Vera to the dying house and forced ...more
A combination of 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Catch-22'. Has everything: memorable characters, action, romance, social commentary, philosophy, and a sprawling historical saga. Absolutely one of the most hilarious reads ever. Wonderfully polished, garrulous, insightful, confiding-in-the-reader-style book; a wry, tongue-in-cheek peek into the lives of quaint, lost, forgotten Britishers and their colonial ways during the height of the Empire. Amusing, exotic, lively. A must for all anglophiles. Farrell' ...more
The reading of J.G. Farrell's trilogy: "Troubles," "Siege at Krishnapur" and "The Singapore Grip" has been one the greatest experiences of my nearly 58 years of bookworm life. Farrell's understanding of people and circumstances and his truly Dickensian story telling skills (I've not read a writer who lifts the veil on scenes in a way as reminiscent of Dickens and Farrell) are breathtaking.

I will miss the people I met in these books very much.

Tom Wascoe
Historical fiction is my favorite genre so this is the kind of book I enjoy. Good tale about Singapore before it fell to Japan in WWII. Does an excellent job recreating Singapore as it existed then. I could touch it, feel it, smell it. Excellent story teller. At times a little too preachy on his view of the world through various characters but does well in chronicaling the excesses of the British Empire.
Found it a more well developed and mature novel compared to the critically acclaimed Siege of Krishnapur, perhaps since the geographical setting is much closer to heart. A better literary rendition of pre-war Singapore will be tough to come by. A masterpiece of historical fiction.
Caleb Guillotte
The final installment in Farrell's "Empire Trilogy" is just as engaging, funny, strange and tragic. Set during the impending Japanese invasion of Singapore during WWII, Farrell highlights how the different classes perceive the events washing over them.
My least favorite of the trilogy by far. Too much (boring) political philosophy being passed off (barely) as dialogue, and a little too much military strategy for my taste. Still, a gripping setting and the Farrell touches of humor aren't lacking.
Farrell's breathtaking conclusion to the rough "Empire Trilogy" isn't so much a focused critical grimace -- a late-blooming Marxist's coming-to-realization in fictional form -- as it is a whirling, anticolonial narrative of decay and war. Emphasizing small-holding Malaysian interests in a perspective still focused on English corporate interests renders the novel's early pages a bit dry and confusing, but, when the narrative picks up, the book truly begins to deliver the goods, as readers familia ...more
Steven Langdon
J. G. Farrell has written a trilogy on the eclipse of the British Empire that speaks superbly of the delusions, the pathologies and the nevertheless ever-so-human encounters across the social and cultural lines that colonialism drew. In this novel, the setting is Singapore in the pre-World War Two then wartime years of British-Japanese conflict. The complacency of a colonial elite is gradually eroded, the military dominance of the Europeans is slowly then quickly shown to be illusory, and sudden ...more
Rohan Maitzen
The long time this has been on my 'currently reading' shelf reflects the difficulty I had getting it read. It's not just that it's long (longer than GoodReads says - my copy of this edition is 672 pages) but that it's dense, and it's not just that it's dense, but that it seems unnecessarily so. As always, the problem may be with me, not the book, but I could have done without the detailed accounts (however wry) of military strategizing especially: after a while the book felt weighed down by Farr ...more
Empecé a leer The Singapore Grip, durante mi viaje a aquellas tierras, era mi segundo viaje a Singapore y para quien conoce esta ciudad le parecerá muy interesante ver su historia como colonia Inglesia cuya riqueza provenia basicamente de los plantíos de Hule en Malaya y su excelente posición geográfica que la ha hecho uno de los puertos más importantes del mundo. La historia empieza en el Singapore antes de la invasión japonesa durante la segunda guerra mundial. Narra la historia de la familia ...more
Contains spoilers.

There is a game that certain readers like to play: deciding which of the three Empire novels by Farrell is the "least good". In my opinion, it is this one, particularly at the start.
In this volume Farrell retells the fall of Singapore to the Japanese and focuses on the economic aspects of Empire. For this purpose, he creates two contrasting characters who become symbols for different ideals. Walter Blackett is partner in a vast commercial net comprising many different enterpris
Aug 21, 2011 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny by: John Keogan
This book was the last of Farrell's trilogy, and what a great read. He's examining colonialism in the British colonies, and this one, no surprise, deals with Singapore. This is a great way to learn about the Japanese invasion; with his typical style, in his military passages, Farrell intersperses the strategizing with the menu details. One of the characters at the front sits "enjoying toast and marmalade and a welcome cup of hot coffee," later reflecting on "what he saw on the battlefield in his ...more
The Singapore Grip is one of a trio of novels (The Empire Trilogy) by JG Farrell that document the end of British Colonialism. I read it as part of my recent interest in pre-WW II novels set in Asia. Singapore Grip tells the story by focusing on the Blacketts, who own a commercial firm in Singapore during the years just before and during WW II. This is a big novel - over 500 pages and includes pictures ranging from nightlife of Singapore, to the exploitation of Chinese and Indians, to the ennui ...more
This is the third book I've read of Farrell's trio of books about the end of the glory days of the British Empire. This one takes place in Singapore at the beginning of WWII. As with all of Farrell's books, the stark misery of most of the people and situation described is offset by the dry humor. One of my favorite examples of this in this book was a dog who keeps showing up. He is mangy and ill, badly malnourished, smelly, and needs to be put down, only no one has time to take him because there ...more
This is my favourite novel of Farrells, it covers the fall of British Singapore in 1942 - an ambitious project if there ever was one, and which Farrell nearly pulls off.
It's a book of two halves. The first is set before the Singapore collapse and shows the British community in all its pompous and self-congratulating glory. Walter Blackett is the head of a successful rubber company, where capitalism has triumphed and thinly conceals the terrible exploitation of the Malaysian population. He is yo
A grand disappointment since his "Seige of Krishnapur" is such a gem. The first and last 100 pages give hints of the grandeur that's in "Krishnapur" but Farrell includes long paragraphs (and sometime chapters) on military, political and economic history. This book follows the Japanese bombing (and subsequent takeover) of Singapore island in 1939; of course, with Farrell as the author, it's part farce, part tragedy. The main plot revolves around Matthew, the idealistic son of a recently deceased ...more
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NYRB Classics: The Singapore Grip, by J.G. Farrell 3 4 Oct 30, 2013 07:28PM  
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James Gordon Farrell (25 January 1935 – 11 August 1979), known as J.G. Farrell, was a Liverpool-born novelist of Irish descent. Farrell gained prominence for his historical fiction, most notably his Empire Trilogy (Troubles, The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip), dealing with the political and human consequences of British colonial rule. The Siege of Krishnapur won the 1973 Booker Prize. ...more
More about J.G. Farrell...
The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2) Troubles (Empire Trilogy, #1) The Hill Station The Empire Trilogy: The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles, and The Singapore Grip A Girl In The Head

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