Singapore, 1949. When Miranda steps onto the pier with her husband Gerry she hopes that their move will bring the fresh start she needs and a chance to heal the scars from her past.
Gerry’s role at the British foreign office affords them a beautiful house and invites the best parties in town. But their life feels worlds apart from England and true friends are hard to find.
When doctor Nick Wythenshaw encourages Miranda to work within the local community, she finds new purpose that opens her eyes to a new way of life.
But as riots erupt across the region and danger draws close to home, Miranda must make an impossible choice. Will she sacrifice everything she holds dear to find happiness?
I chose this book because of its location. Having lived in Singapore during the late 1960s I have read many novels set during the wartime Japanese occupation, but this is the first I have read of post-war life for the British community during The Malayan Emergency. It was wonderful to recognise places visited by the heroine, Miranda, which were more familiar to me than 21st century Singapore.
Miranda engages our sympathy with her fight to find meaning in life after the tragic death of her baby. A new country is not helpful when your husband is out of the house for long hours and the other colonial wives gossip behind your back. Gerry is a handsome, successful colonial officer but he expects his wife to conform to the life of leisure and shopping rather than continuing to volunteer in a hospital as she had in England. Meeting Dr Nick Wythenshaw, “their eyes met like sunlight catching a mirror,” but to respond to this would be playing with fire.
The novel describes the incredible contrasts of simple local kampongs with the luxurious bungalows of the British and the perfume of jasmine with the smell of rotten eggs. Miranda gives us her first impressions of the bright colours of the women’s clothes and the customs of the Malay, Chinese and Tamil cultures. Paula Greenlees really brings each scene vividly to life. But she does not shy away from the harsh aspects of colonial life, of riots caused by resentment and poverty and unkind actions by bored ex-pat residents.
The story builds up tension as Miranda’s life becomes more complicated but she gains the confidence to take control of her own life in a dramatic concluding chapter.
Journey to Paradise on Amazon UK