Evie Fraser, paid companion to a crotchety spinster, seems destined for a lonely life. Then out of the blue, a marriage proposal arrives by post. She met the handsome Douglas Barrington just once – at his wedding – but never forgot him. Now widowed, plantation-owner Douglas offers her a new life on the lush, exotic island of Penang. How can Evie resist?
But what are Barrington’s motives in marrying Evie when he barely knows her, and why is he so hostile and moody?
Evie soon finds herself pitched against Douglas on the one hand and the shallow, often spiteful world of the expatriate British on the other. Has she made the biggest mistake of her life?
Flynn’s tenth novel is the winner of the BookBrunch 2020 Selfies Prize. It explores the themes of love, marriage, the impact of war and the challenges of displacement – this time in a tropical paradise as the threat of the Japanese empire looms closer.
Clare Flynn writes historical fiction with compelling characters.and a strong sense of time and place. Her books often deal with characters who are displaced - forced out of their comfortable lives and familiar surroundings. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.
After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in Eastbourne where she writes full-time – and can look out of her window and see the sea.
When not writing and reading, Clare loves to paint with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel - sometimes under the guise of research.
My main character, Evie, arrives in Penang from England, having never ventured further than the South of France.
Living in a tropical climate after a life in southern England is a big shock to the system. Evie is drawn to the exoticism of the island but takes time to adjust.
I visited Penang myself earlier this year – so I know just how she feels.Sometimes there is no respite from the heat and humidity.
Yet for Evie she adjusts relatively quickly to her new surroundings. Adapting to the life of an ex-pat wife takes quite a bit longer. And most of all coping with the quixotic mood changes of the husband she married after a proposal by letter.
The Pearl Of Penang
Evie passed the time exploring the streets of George Town in the early mornings, before it became too hot to venture out. Even in the cooler part of the day, it was stifling, and she had failed to understand how much the humidity affected the body. Penang was like living in a Turkish bath with no reprieve. As she gradually began to acclimatise, she took increasing pleasure in the novelty of being on this sub-tropical island, with its crowded streets, colourful fruits and spices and exotic smells. It was impossible not to be intoxicated by the sweet fragrance of hibiscus, frangipani, sandalwood and ylang-ylang, the whiff of salt from the sea mingling with the smell of fish, the heady scent of incense which caught the back of her throat as she walked past the many small temples, the aroma of nutmeg and cardamon and the unspeakably foul stench of durian fruit. Passing the Chinese shop houses, the smell of food cooking pervaded the air, as meat was stirred into smoking hot coconut oil or mingled with sesame and soy. She marvelled at how the cooks were able to stand beside steaming vats of noodles and rice, rapidly stirring the food in their woks, in this oppressive heat.