Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: Sunsets in Singapore: A Foreign Service Memoir

Sunsets in Singapore: A Foreign Service Memoir
Sunsets in Singapore: A Foreign Service Memoir by William S. Shepard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Non-fiction/Memoirs
Reading Level: Young Adult on up
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning about the Foreign Service, and/or the fascinating life of the author, folks who enjoy memoirs – most people

Disclosure: I received an e-book copy of this text from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: This book tells the story of how American diplomacy works overseas. Career diplomat William S. Shepard, who retired as Consul General in Bordeaux, gives the reader an insider’s view of an American embassy. The reader learns what constitutes an embassy, what the responsibilities are for each section, and how they work together. The story reflects Shepard’s actual diplomatic career, which also included service at our embassies in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, and Athens, as well as five tours of duty in Washington at the Department of State.

This is a personal memoir of diplomatic service that spans a quarter century diplomatic career, ranging from administrative duties as General Services Officer in tropical Singapore, to political analysis behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest. It has been praised by persons taking the formidable Foreign Service Examination as a helpful practical guide to the challenges facing career officers, and how they are solved. From personal security to representation, the career skills needed for modern diplomacy emerge here. So do the experiences facing diplomatic families, as they move around the globe, gathering experiences for memories that will last a lifetime.

My Thoughts: I don’t often read memoirs – the occasional biography, yes, but I generally stick to fiction. However, I read William S. Shepard’s earlier work discussing the history and development of the detective story and really liked his writing style, so I agreed to give this one a shot. He says he wrote this memoir in the hopes that it would encourage a new generation to consider the Foreign Service.

This book is full of interesting anecdotes from Shepard’s long career in the Foreign Service, which included positions in Saigon, Singapore, Hungary, and France. The history that he has been privy to is absolutely astounding and I can think of no other person with whom I would like to sit down for awhile and just talk.

My favorite anecdote concerned a young couple being sought in Singapore by their neighbor, a prominent Senator, so they could be informed of a wedding they needed to attend. When finally found, they made nuisances of themselves with the staff at the Embassy, leading the supervisor who had been on Shepard to find them to wryly remark: “Shepard... did you have to find those people?” and Shepard to add ruefully: “Tom Cruise hasn’t called to inquire about the film rights.

So, despite this not being the sort of thing I would ordinarily pick up, I quite enjoyed it. I had to take a star off due to numerous typos, but otherwise I think most people will find this as fascinating and entertaining to read as I did – definitely check this terrific book out – and be sure to take a look into his mystery series!

Additional Information: Please see William Shepard’s guest post on my blog Nov. 14 by clicking the link (available where formatting is allowed). My apologies for not having this book reviewed by the end of November as I promised.

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  1. Katy:
    Many thanks for your thoughtful, and thorough review of "Sunsets In Singapore"!

    1. Of course - I'm just sorry it took me so long. I need to go add your "diplomatic mysteries" to my wish list - I keep forgetting, so this is a good time to do it :-)


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