This author manages to use the seemingly selfish behaviour of the main character as a teenager to display the colour of Ceylon to its full potential. When Evelyn later moves to London, she becomes much more somber, in tune with the atmosphere in London during the 1950s.
There is an unusual twist on the expected colonial love story in that Evelyn, the English girl, is impoverished and Emil, the native, is very wealthy. This provides an unusual foundation for the rest of the story.
It is a story which is told often in novels but this book manages to shock and surprise both at the same time.
Predictably, reading this book made me think of the shame I felt when reading Andrea Levy's book A Small Island. Black Orchids has not had the acclaim of that book but I think it is as good even though both books are, at times, formulaic.
What stops this book being an all time classic is the way that the characters are changed without explanation, although it should be noted that the book jumps ahead in time several years each time. Emil and Evelyn would both have been different in England but seem to change almost beyond recognition, Emil from sensitive to brash and Evelyn from bold to compliant. As Milton picks up the focus towards the end, the story seemed to lose it's way and became slightly disappointing, however this didn't take away from a good plot and a well created atmosphere throughout most of the scenes in the novel.
Worth reading if you enjoyed A Small Island (and even if you didn't).