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July 18, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE SCENT OF THE GODS by Fiona Cheong (Norton: $8.95; 247 pp.). Cheong's sensual first novel about a girl's coming of age in Singapore during the '60s evokes the light, colors and smells of Southeast Asia. The youngest child of a wealthy Chinese family, Su Yen watches the rise of Singapore's squeaky clean police state, and learns a bitter lesson in politics when her favorite uncle and older cousin are destroyed by the growing power of the central government. Su Yen's own growth provides a counterpoint to the decline of traditional beliefs represented by her formidable grandmother, the family matriarch who offers prayers and incense to diverse and unresponsive gods.

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