A Certain Exposure
A Certain Exposure was my first novel, published by Epigram Books in 2014; the UK edition was published in 2018.
Satirical and sympathetic, political and personal, A Certain Exposure traces the adolescences of twin brothers Andrew and Brian, culminating in the explosive events leading to Andrew’s tragic death. This is a classic coming-of-age tale doubled across two vividly individual brothers, who struggle to navigate a complex tangle of relationships and coercive forces, cinematically interwoven with the yearnings and fears of an ensemble of mothers, fathers, cousins, friends and lovers both false and true. This wide-ranging debut beautifully presents the resonances and the ghosts of lost possibilities, as well as a gripping story of hope and betrayal.
“One of the best novels I’ve read recently…a haunting story about elitism and prejudice in a society which recites daily pledges to maintain equality for all.” (Balli Kaur Jaswal, author of Inheritance)
“I very much enjoyed A Certain Exposure. An immense achievement, with absolutely beautiful passages of description.”
— Sarah Howe, T.S. Eliot Prize-winning author of Loop of Jade
“One of the best debuts of 2014” (Helmi Yusof, The Business Times)
“A Certain Exposure is a quiet, powerful tale about the dangers of unthinking conformity… [It is rare] in Singapore that we are made to face recognisable portraits of our society and acknowledge the distortions.” (Akshita Nanda, The Straits Times)
“A masterful debut. Jolene Tan has written, in devastatingly beautiful prose, a quiet book about disquieting things. She lays bare the dark hearts of our sentimentalized HDB ‘Heartlanders’ and our vaunted government ‘scholars’ and finds: coldness, sanctimony, and corrosive attitudes the more damaging for their utter casualness. This is a passionate warning, a chronicle of tragedy foretold. How will we save our selves and our soul? Like Anthony Chen’s film Ilo Ilo, A Certain Exposure already has the feel of an essential Singapore classic.” (Sandi Tan, author of The Black Isle)
“[A]n exciting debut novel that delves beneath the surface of Singapore society, questioning the dominant value systems and asking if there’s a better way for us to live.” (Jeremy Tiang, writer and translator, in “My Book of the Year”)
“A Certain Exposure is an intimately layered story about twin brothers forging different paths through the intricacies and prejudices of Singapore society, but will strike a chord wherever the struggle between personal values and social pressures is experienced.” (Ovidia Yu, author of Aunty Lee’s Delights)