book cover of The Great Reclamation
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The Great Reclamation

A novel by

2023 HWA Gold Crown Award (longlist)

'Extraordinary . . . Every page pulses with mud and magic'
Miranda Cowley Heller, author of The Paper Palace

'Alive to the beauty and mystery of the natural world as well as the human heart'
Jessamine Chan, author of The School for Good Mothers

'What a marvellous novel'
Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning

'An intimate love story and an epic historical tale that is sure to be read for years to come'
Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic

'Ah Boon's story will stay with me for a long time'
Lara Prescott, author of The Secrets We Kept

On a quiet moonlit night, Ah Boon, young and terrified, takes his first trip out to sea in his father's fishing boat - a rite of passage for the boys of the kampong. As the air hums and the wind howls across the waves, a mysterious, impossible island materialises in the darkness; an island, bountiful with fish, that Ah Boon soon learns only he has the ability to find.

But this is only the beginning of the story, and as Ah Boon grows up, alongside Siok Mei, the spirited girl he has fallen in love with, he finds himself caught in the tragic sweep of Singapore's history. When the Japanese army invades, the resistance rises, and their small nation hurtles towards rebirth, the kampong and the impossible islands that surround it are thrown into jeopardy, and the two friends must decide who they will become - and what they are willing to give up.

Genre: Historical

Praise for this book

"Through the story of one remarkable boy, Rachel Heng's breathtaking epic of 20th century Singapore shows us the human and environmental costs of a nation's quest for freedom, prosperity, and order. Told with great tenderness and moral clarity, and alive to the beauty and mystery of the natural world as well as the human heart, The Great Reclamation is timeless, timely, and unforgettable." - Jessamine Chan

"A monumental epic. A story of an entire nation reckoning with its past combined with a heart-wrenching love story. This one shouldn't be missed. I was spellbound." - Nathan Harris

"The Great Reclamation is an extraordinary achievement - an epic love story set in a world at war within and without itself. Every page pulses with mud and magic. I loved it." - Miranda Cowley Heller

"The Great Reclamation is a truly wondrous book. In telling the story of one country confronting the forces of change, one community caught between the pain and the promise of transformation, and one young man who must decide whether to live in the past or give it all up for a chance at a different future, Rachel Heng has written one of the most extraordinary novels I have read in some time." - Cristina Henríquez

"Arresting and haunting... Rachel Heng asks us to consider the tensions between homeland and nationhood, and whether progress can be made without sacrifice. This is a powerful, expansive book that made my heart ache. It will stay with me for a long time." - Crystal Hana Kim

"The Great Reclamation is so beautifully written and perfectly imagined that you follow its characters out to sea, through city streets, into the corners of villages, through every strange quirk of life, until they get under your skin and into your dreams. How does Rachel Heng write about the imaginary and the historical in a way that they are both equally believable and moving and strange? I don't know how she does, it but this book is a marvel." - Elizabeth McCracken

"The Great Reclamation is a beautifully written novel. I loved so much in this book: the richly imagined setting, the varied languages and motivations at play in this burgeoning country, the complicated love story between Lee Ah Boon and Siok Mei, and the heartbreaking way history can tear apart a family. I'm grateful to Rachel Heng for writing this gorgeous novel." - Ann Napolitano

"Gorgeously written and compulsively readable, The Great Reclamation is both an intimate love story and an epic historical tale that is sure to be read for years to come. Heng's writing is full of rich, sensuous detail - mysteriously appearing islands, the smell of rain on hot monsoon evenings, the fierce burn of a rubber seed when pressed against the skin - that mesmerizes on every page. She deals with difficult questions - who, and what, are we willing to sacrifice in the name of progress? - while never losing sight of the complex humanity of her characters." - Julie Otsuka

"A gorgeous novel about love, fate, free-will, and how, in wartime, one person's choices can have long-lasting consequences. The Great Reclamation is as sweeping as it is specific. Ah Boon's story will stay with me for a long time." - Lara Prescott

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