Book review: The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall

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Nobody does ‘epic’ better than Kate Furnivall...

From the author of the best-selling The Russian Concubine comes another sweeping, sumptuous and sensuous novel which this time transports us to the heat of Malaya in the chaos caused by the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

And what a treat it is ... romance, action and suspense, all set amidst the uncertainties and dangers of wartime, guarantee there’s never a dull moment

High emotion, high drama and high seas are the hallmarks of a vibrant and very visual story rich in atmosphere and location, and peopled by colourful characters drawn from both sides of the cultural divide.

Connie Hadley is the glamorous wife of wealthy Malayan rubber plantation owner Nigel; they have a luxurious home, own acres of land, possess an army of servants, a lively seven-year-old son Teddy and live amidst a tropical paradise.

Life should be perfect, but it isn’t ... while Nigel loves the stifling heat, the rich tapestry of exotic vegetation and mixing with the other colonials at the clubhouse, Connie nurses a longing to return to the coldness of England, and devastating secrets that could destroy her marriage and family.

There’s no love lost between husband and wife and Teddy is the only glue that keeps them together.

Amidst rumours that the Japanese are heading towards Malaya, Constance is driving into the local town, Palur, when her car hits and kills local woman Sai-Ru Jamat. The woman, whose 16-year-old twins Maya and Razak witness the tragedy, curses Connie with her dying breath.

Overcome with guilt, Connie finds work for the young Malaysians on the plantation but they harbour a grudge against the woman with her ‘pretty white feet in her pretty white shoes.’

On the day of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbour, as Japanese Zero aircraft attack Palur, Connie takes the decision to flee to Singapore on the family’s boat, The White Pearl.

She sails with her husband and son, the twins, three friends and the enigmatic boat dealer Fitzpayne, who is the only one who can navigate the islands of the South China Sea.

In desperation, short of food and constantly in danger, fear strips away good manners, tensions arise on the yacht and anger causes deadly divisions between friends as hidden truths rise to the surface.

Survival will not just depend on charting a course through rough seas...

From the domestic to the social and political, through peaceful times and turbulent times, The White Pearl is an exhilarating voyage of discovery full of dark surprises, betrayal and murder.

Don’t miss the boat...

(Sphere, paperback, £6.99)