Heart Of Glass by Ivy Ngeow is this week’s read of the fortnight in Book Club.
‘Greed is good,’ says Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, the film the captured the zeitgeist of the
80s – everything larger than life, from egos to shoulder pads to hair to mobile phones.
The decade that took it all to extremes is enjoying something of a resurgence these days.
Much to the disbelief of those of us old enough to remember them the first time round, not
only velvet and lace, but the scrunchie and even bum bags (yes, really) are back in fashion.
And this is the neon wave Ivy Ngeow is riding with her brand new second novel, Heart Of Glass, published by Unbound Digital.
Ngeow, born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, published her 1990s-set prize winning
first novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino, in 2017. And in Heart Of Glass, we are transported right
back to 1980. Li-an Donohue has been ‘discovered’ playing the piano on a drunken night
When she has sufficiently recovered from the excesses of too much booze on an empty
stomach, Li-an is whisked away to Macau, also known as ‘the Las Vegas of the East’, by
Paolo, her wealthy and smitten benefactor, to play in his new pizzeria.
Li-an is a glorious creation: a woman who wouldn’t dream of taking hand outs from a man
she is more than happy to steal from. She is great company on this crazy journey from
poverty and crime in Chicago to luxury and still plenty of crime on the other side of world.
The star of the show is the language: Li-an’s first person voice is colloquial, compelling,
gorgeously vivid and seriously impressive.
When you get down to its bones, Heart Of Glass is a book about morality disguised as a
book about hedonism. Li-an is repeatedly forced to explore and examine the ethical
parameters by which she lives – like an erudite Desperately Seeking Susan (perhaps
directed by Quentin Tarantino this time) this is a journey of self-discovery and survival,
sometimes against all the odds. And the total lack of self-pity or sentimentality makes the
story all the more irresistible.
Heart Of Glass is the literary equivalent of an evening with a flamboyantly articulate friend
and far too much champagne. Only without the hangover the next day. Whether or not
you’re old enough to remember the 80s the first time round, it’s a treat.
Now I am going to go and dig out my scrunchies and my bum bag and watch Desperately