A coming-of-age story set in 1950s Singapore, written with photorealistic clarity. Skinny and his friends grow up in a self-sufficient kampong along an unnamed road. Reading about their lives, a distinctive character of their long-gone childhood and of Singapore emerges—raw from a recently concluded war, alive with student riots and social movements.
Among the themes explored by the narrator is one of change, such as the transition from rural to urban living and the role of women in a developing society, as if inevitably the road must lead to it. Stories of love, death and forgiveness line the unnamed road at the heart of life in the kampong.
“This is a local book that should be of interest to Westerners because it's such a well told story. This is really one of the first works I've read that didn't have an assumption that Singapore's history is of interest to the rest of the world. This book simply had an unassuming way of speaking about childhood while navigating through an interesting period in time. The writer had such wonderful discipline at keeping perspective and wrestling the story down to size, at delivering a really well-shaped tale that has a lot of universal resonance and local affection. David Leo had a really deft hand.”
— Fran Lebowitz
“Cherry Days is a very ambitious, and largely very effective, contained novel that is essentially set on one stretch of an unnamed road. The setting is one of the real strengths of the book... a coming-of-age fiction set in the Singapore of the 1950s that effectively creates a mood of nostalgia. There is an elegiac quality to Skinny's story about his long-gone childhood in the kampong, even as the book explores parallel developments in history, especially the changing role of women. The attention to detail in recreating the location and some strong characters are notable highlights. David Leo writes with a simplicity and clarity that works to bolster the essential tone of the narrative.”
— Shoba Viswanathan
“The unassuming, deceptively simple prose of Cherry Days belies its big-hearted, emotional core, from which the characters are vividly, lovingly and empathetically drawn. The book draws the readers in steadily, keeping them enthralled in the bucolic kampong life and shenanigans of its inhabitants. Yet, layer by layer, it peels away the patina of innocence, revealing the loss and poignancy that comes with growing up. Cherry Days is a treasure trove of precious memories and epitomes of neighbourly love.”
—William Phuan, managing director of The Select Centre
“Cherry Days appeals with nostalgia and a familiar sense of community. The straightforward prose imparts with affection defining moments and memories of youth and family.”
—Tan Mei Ching, writer of novels, short stories, creative nonfiction, plays, children’s books