Bitter Leaves

By Tabatha Stirling

A novel that will bring you to the dark heart of Singapore's maid culture

Campaigns | Fiction
140% funded
148 supporters

Publication date: March 2019

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A bookclub, library or school visit and talk by the author either in Edinburgh or London. Plus five signed first editions of the paperback plus the ebook and five names in the back of the book.
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A personally dedicated frontispiece printed in the book, lunch with the author, a personalised poem written by the author, 2 signed first edition paperbacks.
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'Tabatha Stirling’s brilliantly achieved first novel, Blood on the Banana Leaf, explores the relationships between maids and their employers in Singapore, exposing deeply unsettling truths about what goes on behind the glossy surface of that society. Told in the superbly nuanced voices of four very different female characters, it’s a great read; tense, vivid and involving, both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Tabatha is a talented, brave and accomplished writer and I do hope her novel gains the recognition and success it deserves.'
Lesley Glaister is the critically acclaimed author of thirteen novels and the winner of the Jerwood Prize for Fiction 2014 for her novel, Little Egypt.

Welcome to the black heart of Singapore’s maid culture, where a woman’s life is cheap in one of the richest countries in the world.

Here are the voices of the unheard, of maid and employer, of village girl and city dweller. Follow Lucilla, Ma’am Leslie, Shammi and Madame Eunice as they strive, each in her own way, to exist in a country in which dark shadows lie beneath its pristine exterior.

The lives of these women are woven together by a narrative which is always candid and often brutal, as it explores the effects of loss, madness, abuse and hope during a woman's life and in society as a whole.


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78 pledges


Buy now
$45  + shipping
44 pledges


A first edition of the paperback plus the ebook and your name in the back of the book.
  • Tabatha Stirling avatar

    Tabatha Stirling

    Tabatha Stirling is a published writer, poet, book cover artist and indie publisher living in Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband, two children and a depressed Beagle, called The Beagle. Her publishing credits include LITRO, Spelk fiction, Literary Orphans, Mslexia, Feminine Collective, Sick Lit Mag, Scottish PEN & The Magnolia Review. She recently won the Scottish Book Trust 50-word short story competition and placed second in the Nopebook short fiction contest.

    An extract of her addiction memoir is to published in the ‘Wild & Precious Life’ Anthology edited by Lily Dunn & Zoe Gilbert. Her debut novel, Bitter Leaves, is to be published by Unbound in early 2019.

    When she’s not writing, reading Grimdark or designing she enjoys watching dark, blood-splattered dramas like the Walking Dead, Ray Donavon and Sons of Anarchy. Tabby is absolutely ready for a zombie apocalypse.


    20 Sabre Green

    When I came to Singapore, it was with such happiness in my heart. I knew I was doing a good thing, making my parents proud. The girls that go to Singapore and Arabia are spoken of with reverence and as good, dutiful girls.

    Sawtoh, the skinny girl from my village, she married a Western man and now they live in Singapore in a palace with beautiful children and swans. I hear her bed is made from gold and she has many servants. I wish her luck but I never like her much. She was cruel to animals and the younger children. Would pull pigtails and tear clothes and kick the dogs around the village when the mood took her. My Ebu says the devil is inside her mouth.

    I don’t disagree with Ebu but I think that she is just very selfish. Most of the girls who marry Western men are cunning but until they have a ring on their finger – they play it very sweet like Bubur Candil. Sawtoh must have been kicking many puppies in private to be able to mask her real self. I feel sorry for that Western Man. He went to the market and bought a duck but it turned out to be a fire ant.

    It is very dark here at my Madame’s house. I am expected to wash the car before the family wakes up. As I stumble out with sleep still in my eyes and weary bones that sigh I see the other black shapes washing other cars. We might smile and nod but we never call out. The maids that wash cars know better than that. We are divided between the maids that speak and the maids that do not.

  • 29th July 2019 Bitter Leaves nominated for Not The Booker Prize!!

    It's been a long time since my last update but I come back bearing rather super news that Bitter Leaves (yep, that novel that you supported, gorgeous people) has been nominated for the Guardian - Not The Booker Prize.  At this stage it's a reader vote so if you felt so inclined  - could you nip to The Guardian page by clicking here and vote for BL?  Doesn't take too long and we could make the longlist…

    17th November 2018 Exciting Developments

    Hello, Wonderful Supporters,

    Well, we are nearly there.  Bitter Leaves is now with a copy editor and the countdown has begun to publication.

    Extraordinary, really.  When I think how the idea for Bitter Leaves started in 2012.  Standing at the sink, washing a couple of mugs for tea, sweating pricking my brow and top lip in the relentless Singapore heat.   Then an idea for a thriller sweeps into…

    17th July 2018 Back In The Game!

    Hello, my lovely supporters!

    I realise it has been about 245 years since you heard from me or had an update and please accept my profuse apologies.

    However, I am pleased to tell you that BOTBL is now in the editing process.  This is a huge step towards publication and very exciting.  I am so lucky to have Scott Pack as my editor because he basically rocks and is well-known for his great taste…

    6th December 2017 AND WE'RE OFF!


    I just wanted to fill you all in on the next stage of the journey for Blood On The Banana Leaf.

    I’m trying desperately to let go of the manuscript and send it off to the developmental editor.  This part of the editing process is quite specialised and the editor will concentrate on plot, story arc, characters, and pace.

    I’m finding this stage never-wracking.  The tremendous excitement…

    19th August 2017 WE’VE ONLY GONE AND BLOODY DONE IT!



    All of you, me and The Beagle have made ‘our’ book a reality but mostly you.  My pledgers.

    Team Tabby!

    Team Banana!

    Okay … Team Tabby!

    And the gratitude and thanks are brimming over my sides.  Which is a lot nicer than it sounds.

    So what happens next?  I’ve no idea!  But as soon as I do know then so will you.



    27th April 2017 Pitch Party Heaven

    I lived in London from 1993 to 2005 and when I left, after falling in love with a Scotsman, I really felt my love affair with our capital city had come to an end. But I should have known that you can become very cross with London but you never stop loving her.

    Unbound's inaugural Pitch Party was hosted by Waterstone's Gower Street deep in the heart of Bloomsbury. My first love attended UCL and…

    1st April 2017 It Has Been A While Since My Last Confession (Update).

    And I’m here to make it up to you.  I hope you still remember pledging for my book! After all, it's not Christmas so you have no excuses.


    I’ve been selected to pitch at Unbound’s 'pitch party' at Waterstones, Gower Street on 24th April @ 18:30 and you can book your tickets here >>>>>>…

    4th February 2017 ON CLARIE AND HITTING 55%

     First of all.


    Can you believe it? A huge milestone in crowdfunding Blood On The Banana Leaf. And that is down to all of you, my incredible supporters. I can’t thank you enough. I will be thanking you for the rest of my life and this is your book too which feels very comforting.

    After talking about Sawtoh in my last post, I wanted to introduce my helper Clarie, who lived…

    16th January 2017 52% FUNDED AND INTRODUCING SAWTOH


    First off, I want to thank you all for supporting my writing and my long-held ambition to be traditionally published.  52 percent is a huge milestone, it means that the likelihood of OUR book getting published is becoming more and more of a reality.

    So I think a resounding group ‘WOO HOO’ is in order.  

    I wanted to write a little about Sawtoh, the very young Myanmar helper who lived next…

    30th December 2016 Moving On Swiftly to 2017, That One Story and Winners of the Flower Print competition.

    Enduring Times

    2016 has been an endurance test for most of us. I'm sure it can be put down to some astrological stunt that Mercury & Jupiter have decided would be hilarious to watch but it wasn't so much fun down here. I lost several of my idols, influences and creative superstars. Victoria Wood hit me hard because I've never been a fan of brutal satire like Brass Eye. I adored her hilarious…

    7th December 2016 Thank You Giveaway for TWO SUPPORTERS And Book Endorsement by Literary Heavyweight.


    Hello, Darlings!

    It goes without saying how tough crowdfunding is.  One of my Unbound chums, Stevyn Colgan, describes it as ‘wading uphill through peanut butter’. While not quite as delicious it certainly describes the process accurately. 

    It is incredibly hard work and really defies the British way of speaking softly about money or in code, ‘I could really do with some dosh, chum’, one…

    1st November 2016 Blackwell’s Talk, Riding the plateau & Christmas Presents.


    Hello, Darlings!

    It’s been a while and I apologise for the delay in updates but I promise I’ve been incredibly busy off-screen so to speak garnering events and promotional activities to keep the pledges coming in !

    After all, you wonderful, WONDERFUL supporters want the book to be published as much as I do.  And see your names in the back.  On a bookshelf.  Literary Immortality.  


    29th September 2016 On The Hard Art of Writing

    Most of my writing tends to be on the dark side.  Twisty tales and damaged goods leaking from a thin brown bag.  See, I can’t stop myself.  But sometimes, I do write a bit of comedy, particularly poetry, like My Partner Joan.  


    My Partner, Joan

    I'm not the most attractive bloke

    Some might say I'm quite the joke

    Education was never my bag

    My brain's not big and inclined to sag…

    10th September 2016 Writer's Groups: The Good, The Bad and The Snuggly.

    There is a film called Author Anonymous about a writers group, packed full of the usual stereotypes of authors that haven’t achieved major success but keep plugging away while tearing strips off the entire publishing industry.  Enter Hannah, a ditzy blonde who writes chick-lit and whose presence is barely tolerated by the writers of other genres.

    Eventually, it is Hannah who receives a huge book…

    29th August 2016 Three Unbounders Raise The Roof in Glasgow!

    Hello, my darlings!

    Very excited to announce an Unbound literary event in Glasgow.  Come and join Helen Taylor, Ian Skewis and me as we talk about the Unbound Experience, our books and even read a chapter or two.  PLUS, FREE WINE.   It will be great fun so do come along if you are in Glasgow or 'copter' up if you are in London.  

    Hopefully, see you there!

    Love,  Tabby x


    28th August 2016 Stricken!

    I can only apologise for the radio silence but I've been laid low by tertiary syphilis.  No, that was 1934 in Berlin.

    I mean a sinus infection.  Which are pretty nasty beasts!  I was having a conversation with my lovely Mother In Law and she was of the same opinion.  So, while I'm still working on a post about writer's groups, The Good, The Bad & the Snuggly, I was able to write a poem for a pledging…

    8th August 2016 On The How's and The Why's (Part One)

    Hello, Darlings!

    Firstly, TWENTY-EIGHT PERCENT!!!    I can't thank you all enough.  And, I haven't even started on the serious schmoozing and boozing yet.   

    I have been asked a few times 'How' I write and 'Why' I wrote about the subject of maid abuse.

    The 'Why' is easy.  My first experience of the FDW (Foreign Domestic Worker) apartheid started within a few weeks of arriving in Singapore…

    2nd August 2016 How To Love An Introvert.

    Hello, Darlings!

    Yes, I do actually speak like that, it is not an affectation :)

    The last few days have been a whirl of email pleas, twitter posts, phone numbers and blagging.

    Promotion, marketing, and selling are a demon triptych for most writers.  Most of us are introverts who tend to surround ourselves with ... as little as possible.  Writing is a solitary game although those of us with…

    30th July 2016 I AM ADULTING!

    Hello, Darlings!

    I have learnt pretty quickly that you have to be really ingenious when crowdfunding.  

    First of all, you have to learn to be a salesperson very quickly.  But an unpushy, literary one.  So not too many bells and whistles.  

    Secondly, you have to have your 'elevator pitch' (those couple of lines that authors quote you when you ask what the book is about) ready to breeze off…

    29th July 2016 Happy Friday.

    Hello My Darlings,

    Just a quick note before a lovely hefty one at the weekend to say I am very active on Twitter so feel free to follow me and join in the 'mad as a box of Frogs-ness' that is my feed.  I am @Volequeen.

    I know what you are going to ask?  Why Volequeen?  And that is a very interesting story that would be better told over a weekend with a case of Santenay '72 but I'll try to address…

    28th July 2016 Huzzah!

    Welcome to my Shed.  It's actually quite cosy in here and blissfully quiet.  This is because I'm locked in the bedroom, wearing earplugs and trying desperately to not hear the squealing and laughter of my beloved family.  

    I am settling in to regale you all with exclusive bits and pieces about my book, talk about all sorts of shocking and scandalous events that probably never happened but I live…

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