Imagine growing up playing and frolicking on the banks of a river. Lined with squatters, hawkers and bum-boats, all of whom have lived there for generations. This is 1960s Singapore and Ping and Weng are catching fish and forming a friendship the way only children can.
Ping is the daughter of a Pipa songstress and lives in the decrepit part of Chinatown and Weng and his family reside on the banks of the river. But when Yoke Lan, Ping’s mother marries a rich businessman, everything changes between the two young friends just as the river and the city is thrown into the throes of modernity. The story chronicles one of the most disruptive times in recent Singaporean history- the clean-up of the river. Class and circumstance divide the two of them. And of a love that the river divides and music brings together. The River’s Song is as much a love story as it is a quest for identity, that of a city state, and of Ping and Weng.
Pinaki De is a graphic designer and illustrator who has done numerous book covers for leading publishers in Indian and abroad. He also has a day job as an assistant professor in English Literature. His other obsession is graphic novels and presently, he is working on his first graphic novel project based on Partition. He is the recipient of Publishingnext book cover of the year, 2016
The concept is built from the fluidity of the watercolour as it percolates the paper representing the central consciousness of the river in the novel. Within the blue wash, tiny bumboats are inscribed. They are representative of 1950-60s Singapore. Beyond the frayed edges of colour are the figures of two children whose lives form the trajectory of the novel as they grapple to come in terms with the change that sweeps them apart
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