Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication: March 2012
I have heard several good reviews on Kate Furnivall's books, but have yet to read them. So when I came across her latest release, The White Pearl, I decided that this would be a good time to read it since the theme revolves around World War II set in Malaya and Singapore during the 1940s. Though I learnt about the history of the Japanese invaded Singapore during my secondary school days and have heard many horror stories on how the Japanese soldiers tormented the civilians then, I thought it would be interesting to read it from a fiction point of view so here it is.
The story opens with the lead character, Connie Hadley, wife of a rubber plantation owner in Malaya, in a car accident in which she kills a Malay woman on her way home. This unfortunate incident, however, is witnessed by Maya and Razak, who are the teenage children of the dead woman and needless to say, they harboured a deep hatred for Connie. Although Connie tries her best to help them in every ways she can, her husband does not see the point of her doing so as he thought the best thing they could do is to leave everything behind and move on with their life.
However, this would be the last thing on their mind when the Japanese started to invade Malaya. Connie decides to leave for Singapore; an island in which at that time was one of the British Straits Settlements, for she thinks it would not be possible that the Japanese would fight against the British.
But en route to Singapore on Connie's yacht, The White Pearl, Connie is shocked to learn that Singapore, like Malaya, is being invaded by the Japanese. Amid the tension and fear, Connie, together with her family as well as Maya and Razak, also faced the threat of the pirates and they managed to rescue a Japanese pilot whereby the story takes on a more adventure-like momentum.
Though the story is told in third person POV, there are also some flashbacks of the affair Connie had had with a Japanese businessman before the war. Connie may be a good mother to her young son, but she is bored and she felt her marriage is a loveless one.
The White Pearl may be a story about war, betrayal and survival, but it also tells a story of a woman fighting for love and freedom, and the price she has to pay for those things she craved. While I find the characterisations and the premise are nicely plotted, I have to admit I didn't feel connected towards Connie as I had anticipated. There I felt sympathetic on her situation, however I also think she is indecisive when it comes to love. Perhaps I read it wrongly, but I just got the impression that the affair she had had with the Japanese man was a sham too.
Though I understand that the setting would be mostly focused on Malaya, still I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed that there wasn't much coverage on Singapore and that it was brief; it also mentioned many civilians were blindfolded and killed by the Japanese though.
The ending may sound hopeful, but somehow or rather it left me with a unsatisfied feeling which I couldn't explain. That said, I liked Kate Furnivall's writing style and I look forward to reading more of her books in the near future.