Malaya, 1941. Connie Thornton plays her role as a dutiful wife and mother without complaint. She is among the fortunate after all-the British rubber plantation owners reaping the benefits of the colonial life. But Connie feels as though she is oppressed, crippled by boredom, sweltering heat, a loveless marriage. . .
Then, in December, the Japanese invade. Connie and her family flee, sailing south on their yacht toward Singapore, where the British are certain to stand firm against the Japanese. En route, in the company of friends, they learn that Singapore is already under siege. Tensions mount, tempers flare, and the yacht's inhabitants are driven by fear.
Increasingly desperate and short of food, they are taken over by a pirate craft and its Malayan crew making their perilous way from island to island. When a fighter plane crashes into the sea, they rescue its Japanese pilot. For Connie, that's when everything changes. In the suffocating confines of the boat with her life upended, Connie discovers a new kind of freedom and a new, dangerous, exhilarating love.
I first noticed this title on Mystica's blog (here) and loved the cover! These days I am often puzzled by the lack luster of book covers (chosen by Publishers I am told, not authors) but 'THE WHITE PEARL' intrigued me immediately.
Like Mystica I enjoy foreign settings and the Fourties was an added incentive! Our local library was quick to respond to my hold request and from that point on, I could not turn the pages fast enough!
'Malaya 1941. It was not the first time Connie had killed anyone. But today there were witnesses. A car's bumper should be a mute object, but in November 1941 the chrome bumper on Constance Hadley's 1938 Chrysler Royal found its voice.'
Kate Furnivall gives us a powerful image of Colonial life in Malaya, a distinctly privileged life that would soon crumble with the invasion of Japanese Forces. For me it presented an incidentally well balanced view of the British Empire and plantation owners who occupied sometimes for generations this South Asian country and the natives who systematically breathed under their rules often unnoticed.
It invoked raw beauty, exotic spices, the subtle but unforgettable smell of the Orient and the mysterious spell most Europeans fell under when they first saw this part of the world.
Connie Hadley is perhaps the main protagonist (albeit each character has its own definite appeal) and described as the perfect English hostess, elegant and charming, serene and in control or so it appears.
The Hadley's are the epitome of the Colonial class, untouchable and for the husband at least, the enemy's advance is improbable. Others face the truth and the invasion's imminence. Life as they knew is about to change for ever.
The only possible escape for them is aboard the sloop 'The White Pearl', Nigel Hadley's wedding present to his young bride when Connie first came to Malaya. Faced with the inevitable prospect of Japanese invasion, she hires a seasoned sailor to help them and their friends. So starts their voyage along the Malacca strait towards Singapore...
Kate Furnivall excels at describing the heavy atmosphere which surrounds the sloop and never fails to surprise her readers. Just when you think you know what is happening, a new development shifts the whole story for everything comes at a price, especially freedom.
Connie Hadley is a striking character, utterly feminine yet exuding strength, a delicate British rose in a foreign land striving to overcome loneliness, ultimately pitting every ounce of her courage against the enemy. She is a survivor and you cannot but admire her determination to save her family despite the odds.
She is also haunted by the past but when given another chance at love, she grasps it with both hands and goes on to fight yet another battle.
It is an exquisite story with finely tuned characters, vitally drawing you in its narrative. The end will leave you breathless for we already know history has played its cards. Katie Furnivall's subtle reminder that we have no control over destiny will shake any complacency on your part.
A book to enjoy, each layer sure to spark your imagination and your romantic soul, it contains a few expletives which I would have preferred not to see and adult thematic contents more appropriate to the mature reader.
About the Author:
I found Kate Furnivall's background as enticing as her story!
Born in Wales, Kate's mother spent her own childhood in Russia, China and India, a source of inspiration for the author. Kate now lives in Devon in a 300 year old thatched roof cottage near the sea with husband Norman, an award winning author who uses the nom de plume Neville Steed.For more read (here)
Note to readers: I was not asked to review this book and this post reflects my opinion only!