by Noel Barber
Opulence. Invasion. Terror. And forbidden passion in 1930s Singapore. 'They were the golden days, when Singapore was as rich as its climate was steamy, its future as assured as it was busy. And those days were made even better when, as was inevitable, I fell in love with the Chinese beauty of Julie Soong and, against all unwritten canons of Singapore life, we became lovers.'
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 736 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
- Publication Date: 28/06/2007
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780340938324
- EPUB from £6.99
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Review by cameling
a delightful read. Historical fiction about the life of an English grandson from one of the most prominent English business families in Singapore since the early 1920s before WWII, during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, and after the British took it back from the Japanese in 1949.This book starts off with the grandfather, having built an impressive business in Singapore and the impressive mansion he built on the island, naming it Tanamera, which in Malay, means Red Earth, for the color of the rich soil on which the house stood. It's in this house that his son and grandchildren grow up, fall in love, keep secrets, and fight to hold.It was an interesting look at Singapore (then part of Malaya) through the eyes of the rich Englishman and the society they moved around in. Some of the buildings still exist in Singapore, thankfully without the same racial and gender prejudices during the 20s - 50s. It was fun to visualize these places and the patrons of the time. The comparison to the patrons of today is vastly different.But it is the exploits of the grandson, one Johnny Dexter, and his antics as a child, as a teenager in (forbidden) love with a Chinese girl, as an adult, a father and then a soldier that holds our attention through the book. Touching on the horrors the islanders received at the hands of the Japanese soldiers after they invaded Malaya, this story is told from the view of an English family and what they did to fight for the country they loved. It provides a rather romantic view of the war though and it certainly doesn't delve into the gruesome horrors that the native islanders went through at the hands of the Japanese, but having said that, it did stay close to historical truths, especially the secret partnership the British formed with the Chinese Communists to sabotage the Japanese camps in the jungle, although they did turn on and attempted to hunt down these same communists after the Japanese surrendered at the end of the war.