Published by Penguin, 25th Feb 2016, 400 pages, £9.99
Quick description: historical fiction, mystery romance, adventure, 1950s Indochina, war.
Plot: 1952, French Indochina. Since her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule – and her own family’s involvement shocks her to the core…
Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she’s always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem?
I became a fan of Dinah Jefferies after reading The Tea Planter’s Wife, so much drama, secrets, jealousy and heart-ache. I was so pleased to receive this latest release in my book-mail, neatly wrapped in ribbon and surprising me with a thank-you message from the author! Not too shabby..
I actually preferred this book to Tea Planter… The protagonist, Nicole, is younger, so it has a coming-of-age dimension. She’s also a little bit more gutsy and has a sweet joie de vivre about her, which I warmed up to immediately. This novel is also lighter. There is plenty of mystery , secrets and action-packed moments that will get you very addicted. But there is more joy and happiness that overpowers the sadness.
It might have been my crave to visit Vietnam which drew me into Dinah’s beautiful descriptions of daily life; the streets, the leaves, and the aroma of local food- the author paints it all so vividly. The plot is also a very fast-paced adventure. Nicole constantly meets somebody new, uncovers a new secret, discovers a new location.. She takes a journey, experiencing both the French and Vietminh way of life, and struggling to decide who to support. As the war efforts increase, the novel get ever more gripping as Nicole is drawn in to the middle of it.
Nicole’s relationship with her sister is an element that Dinah excels in; conveying the deepest and darkest side to human behavior. It really tugs against your emotions this one. This complicated sisterhood sits at the heart of the plot. The confusion, conflict and resolution begins and ends the novel. As Nicole finds a way to shape her own identity, this mirrors Vietminh’s enduring resistance and eventual take-over of the French.
The romance here has so many twists and turns. There are crushes, curiosities, doubts, passion, heart-break and tearful reunions. There are more sweet than heated moments and plenty of jealousy and back-stabbing to add to the juice.
To sum it up, this book is wonderful and spent a lot of time resting on my knee.
Thank you Penguin General for my review copy, and your fabulous interns xx