I have embarked on a journey and it is not your standard journey or quick refreshing holiday. You see you may have read one of my previous posts where I admitted that I suffer from chronic and insatiable wander lust. I have perpetually itchy feel (and I do not mean the “go see your doctor” type of itch). In an attempt to quite the travel beast that dwells within me and constantly screams for fulfillment, I have set sail on an escapist, literary journey. I have packed my bag, my passport, my mozzie spray and I’ve set off to see if I can travel ‘Around the world in 80 literary ways”! I plan to read both fiction and non-fiction in an attempt to traverse this wide and wonderful world of ours. My first stop is a historic one. I am landing in colonial Malaya.
The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall is probably not a book that would normally make it onto my reading pile but it was a recommendation so it somehow snuck in. It is set in Colonial Malaya in 1941, Constance Hadley is a woman of prestige and position. She is the white “Mem” on a colonial rubber plantation. She lives a sheltered, comfortable life with her husband Nigel and young son Teddy however she harbours a terrible secret. Her life as a plantation-owner’s wife basically consists of socialising, overseeing the hired native help, and being a mother. Her husband Nigel is rarely home as his business tapping rubber trees is flourishing. The coveted commodity is much in demand as the rumours of war abound. Nigel’s absence is somewhat of a welcome relief as tension between Nigel and Connie is escalating. Their marriage is slowly rotting and festering in the tropical heat. Connie’s once enthusiastic dreams of a married life in Malaya are disintegrating and turning sour. Each day finds her more and more unhappy. Then one day there is an accident that threatens to unravel the entire fabric of her existence. At this point we meet local “native” twins Maya and Razak. The accident also brings Connie’s past in to the present which threatens the entire shape of her future.
Tensions climb higher as the threat of war comes to Malaya. Overall there is an attitude of confidence, arrogance and defiance amongst the expat Brits who firmly believe that they can hold strong in the tropics. However the tropical humidity breads rumours of Japanese attack and fear and doubt simmer just underneath the surface. Connie decides that despite everything she is a survivor and so she sets about making an escape plan.
When Pearl Harbor is attacked, Connie and her entourage take refuge on The White Pearl, the sailing boat given to Connie as a wedding present. The plan is to flee to Singapore. And so the adventure begins. Adventure, the high seas, pirates, food rations, bombing raids and constant danger. Onboard there are also threats and tension amongst the passengers. The “natives” learn to make cups of tea to sooth frazzled tempers and the Colonial English slowly have their airs and graces stripped away until pure survival is all that remains.
This book in a nut-shell is a high seas adventure with some romance thrown in. It really is escapist fiction.
If you are going to set sail on The White Pearl, Bon voyage, happy reading and don’t forget your mozzie spray.