Monday, March 09, 2015

Book Review [2015:10] The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall

448 pages

The first few chapters of this book are terrible. I actually gave up on it the first time around, the first chapter in particular really put me off.  What kept me from ditching it completely was the fact that the blurb on the back didn't seem to match at all the style or substance of the beginning of the story. It was this incongruence that led to me trying again. I'm pleased I stuck with it!
The story is set in Malaya in 1941 and is centred around Connie Hadley, wife of a successful rubber plantation owner (although parts of the story are told from other character's points of view, Connie is the main protagonist). Connie is a naive Imperial wife at the beginning of the book, longing for her England, and totally misunderstanding the world in which she lives. Everything changes with the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Whilst all around her refuse to believe that the Japanese would frankly have the gall to attack the mighty Brits, she sets about planning her escape to save her young son. Her efforts are juxtaposed with those of white mercentaries, supersticious locals, and Japanese militia.

This book is so packed full of plot the reader becomes quite incredulous as to what on earth could happen next.  Perhaps that's what life really was like?  I have to admit my knowledge of Second World War activities on the Malay Peninsular is limited to A Town Like Alice and Tenko (both of which are first rate, incidentally).  So perhaps a rather limited fictionalised idea. However neither of those come close to the insane antics of Connie Hadley. Her crazy life reminded me somewhat of Life of Pi; I was waiting only for a toothy island.

So if you like the idea of a prim young lady dealing with murderous spies, sharks, giant man-eating monitor lizards, ruthless spies, men who fall in love with her at any opportunity, pirates, natives calling down curses apon her, mercenaries, ladyboys, kamakaze Japanese, ...then this is the book for you. I loved it.

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