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Looking for a good book? We review two new releases to hit Singapore’s bookstores


Secrets of the Battlebox

Romen Bose

Marshall Cavendish | 144 pages

Among my extended family, The Battlebox has become the fallback sightseeing option for visiting male relatives as a way to occupy time when their better halves are shopping on Orchard Road.

Funny thing is, I’ve never been to the underground bunker in Fort Canning Park myself. This is probably a good thing, because now that I’ve read Secrets of the Battlebox, once I do get there, I’ll be fully armed. (Pardon the pun.)

Romen Bose’s book is based on almost 20 years of research – including many documents only recently released – so it’s thorough. Indeed, if you’re not a military history enthusiast, you might find yourself pining for more and glossier photos. Others, though, will love the detail; there’s a whole section on latrines!

The book is at its liveliest when it quotes the people directly involved in the 1942 campaign. This from Eric Lomax, a signaller: “I went in [to the Battlebox] and didn’t come out for three weeks. The siege of Singapore for me was a series of clipped shouts for help over the radio and terse bulletins of disaster.”           

It’s fascinating, too, to read references to places where we now live and play. “How about a combined counter-attack to recapture Bukit Timah?” asked a Major General shortly before the surrender to the Japanese.

His question, though, was met with silence. By then, the Brits knew that they were done for, and that not even The Battlebox could save them.


Creating a Home for the Way You Live

Kelly Hoppen

Page One | 224 pages

As you’d expect, this glossy coffee-table book is full of gorgeous photographs to delight the reader and inspire you to make the most of your living space.

But it’s more than that, because the celebrated Kelly Hoppen generously divulges lots and lots of detailed information about her personal theory of interior design and décor. It’s crammed with practical tips, including a series of “key notes” for a successful living room, dining room, kitchen and so on. At the same time, it’s kind and comforting for the less-than-fabulously wealthy: “Study your list of needs against your budget, and accept that you will have to compromise. Each and every one of us has to do so.”

Also disarming for this lover of water therapy is Kelly’s observation that a bathtub soak is “one of the most recharging and vital experiences” that we can indulge in. And her practical advice that we need a chair or sofa onto which to throw our clothes when we undress at night. Of course it is! Of course we do!

Fortunately, the foreword by Victoria Beckham is very short.