Paperback: 383 pagesGenre: Historical Romantic Fiction.
Publisher: Penguin 2014
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The man smoothed down the lion's paws with a sponge he'd dipped in a bucket of water, then withdrew a knife from a leather pouch at his waist.
Review Quote: 'The tears are still streaming down my face ... I have three words to describe the book: Captivating, Powerful and Passionate.'
Deborah Rodriguez - author of 'The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul'.
My Opinion: A captivating début.
This début novel which I picked up recently at my local library, was as captivating as the blurb on the cover led me to believe it would be. Dinah Jefferies spent her own childhood in Malaya and was there at the time of the Emergency that took place there in the 1950's. The novel is set in this period and she freely admits that although the characters are imaginary she has of course drawn on her own experiences. It is these memories, plus her mothers memoirs and photographs that have helped make this novel feel so authentic in its 1950's setting. If you want to know more about the background I recommend you read the author's note at the end of the novel.
A heartbreaking story, as the novel opens it is Malaya in the mid fifties and Lydia Cartwright returns home from visiting a friend to find her home is deserted. Her husband, Alec and their daughters Emma and Fleur are not there. To make it worse the phone is dead and the servants have also disappeared. Lydia contacts her husband's boss only to be told he has been sent into the jungle on a posting. She cannot understand why her husband has departed without her and not even left her a message. Setting off on a dangerous journey through the war torn area to catch him up, she has to turn for help to a friend from her past, Jack Harding. Not a good idea as he is a man she had vowed to leave in her past, however she is prepared to sacrifice everything to be reunited with her family.
Lydia has secrets but she is about to face much worse a devastating betrayal! Encouraging you to read this for yourself, without spoilers is my policy, when writing reviews.
Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her début novel, The Separation. She has worked in education, once lived in a 'rock 'n roll' commune and, more recently, been an exhibiting artist
Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and slightly overweight Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off to make tiaras and dinosaurs with her grandchildren.
The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.
Amazon Profile Page Goodreads - Dinah Jefferies - Author Profile
Twitter - Dinah Jefferies Author Official Website