Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Many Splendoured Thing: Han Suyin's Legacy


I usually post the image of a book cover (below) when I wish to discuss the pop song connected to the book.  When the classic novel  A Many Splendoured Thing (1952) by world renowned author *Han Suyin was made into a successful Hollywood movie in 1955 starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones, the song came together with the movie.
Han Suyin

The song, Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing, was not only publicised in the movie but went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Music was by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

The best selling version was recorded by The Four Aces (above), issued by Decca Records.  It hit the second spot in the UK Singles Chart and first spot on both Billboard in 1955. It had been recorded since by Johnny Mathis, Ringo Starr, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole and Barry Manilow. Neil Sedaka and Connie Francis recorded the song in Italian.

Now here's another sound bite. Author Han Suyin was a staunch supporter and lecturer at Singapore's Nantah or Nanyang University (now NTU) teaching contemporary Asian Literature and Linguistics from 1956 onwards when the university began its existence.

Image from Penguin Books
I must admit that I never read the book having pooh-poohed it as romantic fiction especially for a young boy living in the 1950s.  And I never got to reading it afterwards so when the author passed away at the beginning of  this month - 5th November 2012 - I decided to borrow a copy from our library. Sad to say, not even one is available. No more said.

Seniors who are familiar with the song can enjoy it again on YouTube. For the young 'uns, do listen to a composition that held many people spellbound when it was first released. Truly one of my favourites.

*Han Suyin was a Eurasian doctor/writer who was born in China. She passed away in Lausanne, Switzerland, on November 2nd at 95 years young. She had written about 40 books.

Information: Wikipedia. Images: Google. YouTube by: Scout4Me1.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Just came home today at 4pm from Bain Street where I managed to get a copy from a bookshop that houses lots of English Literature books.

A friend who read my posting very early in the afternoon called me. I drove to the shop and managed to get a hold of one.

Published by Triad Grafton Books this particular edition is a reprint from 1989 and costs me $13/00. It's a pocketbook all dried up and yellow. It will probably come to pieces as I read it.

That's how expensive books are today.


A Many Splendoured Thing. The Singapore Connection:

"You may have heard the phrase 'Love is a many splendoured thing' but older readers would probably know it as a song, a movie based on the book, 'A Many-splendoured Thing' by Han Suyin.

It is from this song and book that Andy of the 60s Pop Music Culture blog writes about the person of the late Han Suyin, and her connection to Singapore.

Born in China and a British citizen...

(Read more of noelbynature's comment by clicking his connection above.)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi everyone,

This particular posting needs some attention, especially about the absence of English Literature books.

There are lots to come by in the libraries but some good books are certainly missing.

I know we need to expand our Singapore Books section but not at the expense of literary classics. No offence meant to the library people.

Any comment? :>)


Unknown said...

Hi Andy, according to my search from the catalogue, there are copies of "A many-splendoured thing" available. The Chinese version has copies for loan while the English version is a reference copy.

Gui bao = A many-splendoured thing / Han Suyin zhu; Meng Jun yi.
瑰宝 = A many-splendoured thing / 韩素音著; 孟军译.
Call No. Chinese HNSY

A many-splendoured thing / by Han Suyin ; with an introduction by Malcolm MacDondald.
Han, Suyin, 1917-
London : Jonathan Cape, 1952.
Call No. English 823.914 HAN -[RFL]

Cheers. Ivan

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Ivan,

Thanks for quick response.

There is one copy, which is available to researchers only. Perhaps more copies for English Literature readers? :)

Read the first letter above.

IVAN CHEW said...

BTW, it's a "closed access" copy. Probably out of print and hard to get, hence 'guarded' closely at NL.

Might explain why the copy you bought is expensive as well. You can email the NL to make enquiries on how to access the copy.

BTW I'm not familiar with the book. I understand it's considered a literary work but not about Singapore or by a Singaporean.

NL pays attention to acquiring works published in Singapore and/ or about Singapore. Not possible to obtain all literary works under the sun.

Hope this helps.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Ivan for second response.

Yes, I guess so... with Han Suyin.

Lam Chun See said...

I think i have read Birdless Summer years ago. Found it rather dry and heavy. Maybe too young then.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Wow, first time I hear the title. Must check it out. At least you read one of her books.

Thanks for the visit Chun See. Been a while.


I read a lot in my younger days but grew lazy as I advanced in age.

I remember her name because of one book in my brother's collection, but never read any of her books.

Upon reflection she reminds me of one author who made an impression on me with her book "The good earth" That author was Pearl S Buck!

Have a good week ahead.




Dear Andy,

I saw your feature on "Love Is A Many-Splendoured Thing" which is a film I enjoyed as much for the music as the story.

Its male star, William Holden, did quite a lot of filming in the East, partly because he loved Asian women (and who could blame him?).

[The above passage is part of a story Allan Thompson wrote recently which will be featured soon.)


The Four Aces is an American male traditional pop music quartet, popular since the 1950s. Over the last half-century, the group amassed many gold records.

Its million-selling signature tunes include "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing",[1] "Three Coins in the Fountain",[2] "Stranger in Paradise",[2] "Tell Me Why",[3] and "(It's No) Sin".[3] Other big sellers included "Shangri-La", "Perfidia", and "Sincerely".

Comment by Andy Lim:

These songs were appetisers for those born in the 40s so by the time the pop music train reached the 60s station we were all enthralled but prepared for rock n roll having been schooled in standards, vocal groups and jazz by big swing bands.

Rock and roll was not that different.

(Read the rest on Wiki.)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Arthur for your comment. Yes, Pearl S. Buck was another writer to reckon with and "The Good Earth" was well-crafted and significant. If I remember correctly it could have been used as an English Literature text in schools.

Appreciate your visit.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

A million terima kasehs Allan for providing another insight to your inspirational and colourful life in Singapore 6os.

I have never seen a William Holden cutout in Singapore at all and hope to feature your story soon.

Thanks again for your contribution because this blog cannot do without your adventures.

CYL said...

Hey Andy,

I did not read this book. I read 'The Rain My Drink' a long time ago but can't remember what it's about. Such reads are not meant to be retained --not even in long-term memory bank.

I watched A Many... in the mid 50s in an RAF cinema (could have been Seletar.

The film was rather short-lived but not the theme song. It brings back fond memories whenever I hear it.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Lin for the memory from your bank. I know it's precious but appreciate your sharing.

I will probably put up your letter as a posting soon if you will allow me to?

GJN said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks for taking so much trouble in compiling and recording all the songs and about Han Su Yin. I did read her book many years ago. I enjoyed her writing.

In the same way the song, 'Love is a many splendoured thing.' I love listening to it again.
I have also seen some of the Hindi films and songs like 'Awara' and so on.

Happy Deepavali.
J Nathan

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi J,
Thanks for your comment and contribution. Like so many of us we truly enjoyed the book, movie or song.

Sharing memories keep us all a lot happier when we remember our past because without it we have no present.

JollyGreenP said...

Hi Andy,
try a search on Amazon, there are a few used copies available from various booksellers linked with Amzon. You can also get a more extensive ideqa of the range of her published works.

It was good to mmeet you the other day at Chun See's house whilst my wife and I were visiting Singapore. I have had a think about your suggestion of putting together a piece for your blog and a couple of ideas have come to me. One on how the music I heard in Singapore between 1957 and 1859 influenced my taste in music and the second might be to try and put together an item on a group for which brothers Steve and Julian Barry played in the 1960s. I think their group were called The Roadrunners and they did a number of gigs around the island.

John Harper

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi John,
Glad you're both safely home.

I bought the book from a secondhand bookshop in town. If you read the first letter above the reason is there.

Thanks for the visit and suggestion. I think it'll be great if you could do a follow up. And the period from '57 to '59 should prove interesting.

I have heard of the Roadrunners and they were popular in the 60s circuit. I have written about some bands from the British servicemen group.

Looking forward to your write-up.