I received an ARC of this book via HarperCollins UK (Harper Fiction) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Like all good Chinese children, Andrea Tang is doing her best to fulfil all her mother’s plans for her life: she’s on track to become partner at a top law firm in Singapore, she has a beautiful apartment in the right postcode and a perfect boyfriend who is practically made of husband material.
Except that those plans are unravelling fast: there’s an unfairly attractive new lawyer out to steal her promotion, she has credit-card debt up to her eyeballs, her perfect boyfriend is now her perfect ex-boyfriend and the last single cousin in her family just got engaged, leaving her exposed to romantic meddling on all sides…
Admittedly, when I saw the early reviews for this book – Last Tang Standing– I panicked. People hailed it as the next Bridget Jones’s Diary or Crazy Rich Asians, two things I haven’t yet read – and have only just seen snippets of the movies! I was convinced this book was going to go way over my head.
It turns out, though the comparisons are completely understandable, I didn’t need to worry. What we had was Andrea, a woman who has it all…without having it all under control. Even though she’s older than me, I could definitely relate to Andrea – a character that is confused about who she is (outside of the wider expectations placed on her by her family, and herself), who she wants to be and who she wants. She was funny, a little bit sassy but also unsure and insecure and I loved reading these emotions in her narrative (though I especially loved the incoherent parts lifted from nights she’s had one too many, something a lot of us – myself included – can relate to, for sure!).
Thankfully, all of Ho’s attention wasn’t just on Andrea, as she created a bunch of likeable characters readers get to know along the way – Andrea’s younger sister, Melissa, her cousin and best friend Linda, her friends Ben and Jason and her co-worker Suresh. Even though the novel is written as Andrea’s diary, I felt like all of the characters were incredibly detailed and fleshed out.
Another thing I liked was how detailed Ho’s description was. I’ve never been to Malaysia or Singapore or a lot of the countries she describes – and it looks as though, if the current situation is anything to go by, I won’t be going for a while – but I really felt as though I was there in the foods everyone ate, the places they visited and the scenarios that took place.
The romance was a bit of a slow burn of this one, something I’m not that keen on. In this instance, though, I liked the fact it took time. Even though my mind screamed “you two need to kiss right now!” , I’m glad Andrea went through her share of doomed – and slightly promising – courtships. It felt nice that somebody who wasn’t on top of the dating world (and definitely didn’t understand the concept of apps, something I completely get – even if I am on them!) was presented for a change – and it was even better that she might just have got her happy ending.
The one thing I wasn’t that keen on was the open ending. Not because I want to find out more, or how Ho chose to end the novel felt lacklustre, but because I want to find out more immediately- I don’t feel prepared to let go of Andrea, and the other characters, just yet.
Last Tang Standing will be published on 1 June 2020.
What have you been reading recently? I’d love to chat in the comments 😊.
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