My review of THE ORCHID TREE by Siobhan Daiko
This is a truly beautiful story, the telling the coming of age of a 15 year old girl in Hong Kong during and after World War 2.
I’ve been to Hong Kong several times and have a deep love for it. The author also has first hand knowledge of the place and did a wonderful job at setting the scene and reminding me of all its beauty.
World War 2 was such a complex war with many theatres and players. Reading about the Japanese invasion and occupation of Hong Kong was historically particularly fascinating for me, as was the part about the period following WW2.
Daiko chose a great character to tell her story: Kate, a girl coming of age and falling in love. This unique perspective allows us to see the madness of the grown up world as an outsider and as participant. Great side-characters flesh out the story and add to the richness of the novel. It shows innocence and humanity in volatile times, class and race perceptions, family life, politics, the brutality of war and romance.
Moving, insightful and highly recommended.
Fifteen year-old Kate Wolseley lives a rarefied life of wealth and privilege in the expatriate community. But when the Japanese take over the colony in December 1941, she’s interned in squalid Stanley Camp with her parents. Forty miles away, in Macau, Sofia Rodrigues’ suspicions are aroused when her father invites a Japanese family to dinner, an event which leads to a breach between Sofia and her controlling half-brother, Leo. Enduring cramped conditions, humiliation, disease, and starvation, Kate befriends seventeen year-old Charles – who’s half Chinese – and they give their hearts to each other under the orchid tree. Can their love survive the war?
In December 1948, Kate returns to Hong Kong, determined to put the past behind her. Sofia dreams of leaving Macau and starting a new life, and she won’t let anyone, not even Leo, stop her. A young Englishman, James, becomes the link between Kate and Sofia. The communist-nationalist struggle in China spills over into the colony, catapulting the protagonists into the turmoil with disastrous consequences.
A coming of age story set against the background of conflict and changing values in society.
From the perils of internment to the beauty of Hong Kong’s fragrant harbour, Siobhan Daiko’s novel will take you on a sensuous journey of adventure, romance and redemption
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