Sixteen-year-old Jasmine Barrington hates everything about living in Kenya and longs to return to the island of Penang in British colonial Malaya where she was born. Expulsion from her Nairobi convent school offers a welcome escape – the chance to stay with her parents’ friends, Mary and Reggie Hyde-Underwood on their Penang rubber estate.
But this is 1948 and communist insurgents are embarking on a reign of terror in what becomes the Malayan Emergency. Jasmine unearths a shocking secret as her own life is put in danger. Throughout the turmoil, her one constant is her passion for painting.
From the international best-selling and award-winning author of The Pearl of Penang, this is a dramatic coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a tropical paradise torn apart by civil war.
It was not that Jasmine had ever complained about being in Kenya. Jasmine never complained about anything. She rarely voiced her own needs or aspirations. Evie had tried to coax her stepdaughter into telling her what was amiss, but Jasmine only smiled and said she was perfectly happy.
Arthur suggested that Jasmine might prefer to finish her schooldays in England as a boarder. When Evie had mooted this idea to the girl, Jasmine’s eyes had widened in horror.
‘No thank you!’ she said emphatically, shivering to underline the point. ‘I can picture it – cold draughty buildings, inedible food and being surrounded by strangers. Please don’t ever make me go back to England.’
She now attended a convent grammar school in Nairobi, half-heartedly serving her time.
Evie swatted away a fly as she gazed out over the open grasslands beyond the extensive lawns of the property. Everything here was so huge. Big skies, with clouds casting shadows across the enormous landscape as heat haze distorted and blurred the outline of the distant hills. She could happily sit here for hours, sipping her freshly pressed mango juice, listening to the birds singing in the nearby trees. But she also had tasks to do: menus to plan for the frequent dinners she and Arthur were obliged to host as a consequence of his role in the colonial administration, lists to draw up for a charity event she had been roped in to help organise, name labels to sew into the new sports kit she had just bought for Hugh – who grew out of his shorts so fast she could barely keep up.
Her reverie was interrupted by Gichinga, bearing a silver plate with the mail on it.
‘Many letters today, Ma’am.’
She smiled at the servant and took the letters from the tray. Thumbing through, she saw most were household bills, with one or two stiff white envelopes containing invitations to official functions or social events. An envelope caught her eye. It was embossed with the name of Jasmine’s convent school.
Evie frowned. She sliced the paperknife across the top and unfolded the contents, her frown deepening as she read. This was so much worse than she had feared. Her eyes welled up as she tried to focus on the words – repeated complaints from Jasmine’s class teachers…habitual truanting…refusal to accept the necessary rules of the school…failure to undertake homework…It couldn’t be true. Jasmine had always been a well-behaved and compliant pupil. Yes, Evie was all too aware that she showed little interest in her schoolwork but that was a far cry from refusing to do it at all and skipping lessons. What had happened? She read the final paragraph with mounting distress.
Thank you, Clare Flynn and Love Book Tours
About the author
Historical novelist Clare Flynn is a former global marketing director and business owner. She now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England and most of her time these days is spent writing her novels – when she’s not gazing out of her windows at the sea.
Clare is the author of eleven novels and a short story collection. Her books deal with displacement – her characters are wrenched away from their comfortable existences and forced to face new challenges – often in outposts of an empire which largely disappeared after WW2.
Her latest novel, Prisoner From Penang, was published on 17th April 2020. It is set in South East Asia during the Japanese occupation in World War Two.
Clare’s novels often feature places she knows well and she does extensive research to build the period and geographic flavour of her books. A Greater World – 1920s Australia; Kurinji Flowers – pre-Independence India; Letters from a Patchwork Quilt – nineteenth century industrial England and the USA; The Green Ribbons – the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century in rural England, The Chalky Sea – World War II England (and Canada) and its sequels The Alien Corn and The Frozen River – post WW2 Canada. She has also published a collection of short stories – both historical and contemporary, A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories.
Fluent in Italian, she loves spending time in Italy. In her spare time she likes to quilt, paint and travel as often and as widely as possible. She is an active member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors, NINC and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Get a free copy of Clare’s exclusive short story collection, A Fine Pair of Shoes, at www.clareflynn.co.uk.