I’m always on the lookout for novels centred around other countries and cultures, especially historical novels that investigate the groundwork of the country or feature fictionalised versions of real life people.
My partner is half Singaporean. His mother came to the UK from Singapore in the 1960s to become a nurse, fell in love with a Welsh doctor and stayed. I’ve not been to Singapore myself, but my partner worked there one summer at an architectural firm, his parents have been out a number of times and I’ve began to develop a love for particular snacks she brings back – give me sambal crackers and pineapple tarts daily please.
I’ve been fascinated to find out more about Singapore as a country, given its intriguing history as a colonised country and important trading port for the East India Country. Thus I was really happy to come across The Red Thread by Dawn Farnham, the first in a quartet of novels published by Monsoon Books, following an interracial romance in 1830s Singapore.
While the book has a varied cast of characters, the central romance plot follows wide-eyed Scottish girl Catherine and triad member Zhen, after a chance encounter at sea. But so much stands in their way, not least Catherine’s brother Robert, head of Singapore’s secret police. Can they possibly be together with so much against them?
Alongside this, Farnham plays with a number of real-life characters from 1830s Singapore on the page, most notably George Coleman and his partner Takouhi. Coleman was an Irish architect, responsible for much of Singapore’s civil infrastructure after Raffles’ founding, and his and Takouhi’s relationship acts as a mirror to the burgeoning forbidden romance between Catherine and Zhen.
Throw in piracy, the opium trade, Singapore’s complicated racial politics and young love and you have The Read Thread.
The Telegraph refers to The Red Thread as “immaculately researched” and I completely agree with this. Farnham’s years in Singapore and her passion for her adopted country is very clear, resulting in colour-strewn prose that leaps from the page. In reading this novel, my understanding of the colonial founding of Singapore has grown and spurred a desire to know more, and I hope it will do the same for others.
Interested? Get it here in paperback or get it on Amazon Kindle between 17th and 25th September absolutely free!
What to read next:
- A Fistful Of Colours by Suchen Christine Lim
- Tai-Pan by James Clavell
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Thank you kindly to Monsoon Books for sharing the copy with me and allowing me to take part in their blog tour. To check out the other posts on the tour, see below!
Monday 18th September
Tuesday 19th September
Wednesday 20th September
Thursday 21st September
Friday 22nd September
Saturday 23rd September
Sunday 24th September