I felt this was rather a weak book.
'The White Pearl' is a historical romance set in Malaya during World War II. The central character, Connie, lives near Kuala Lumpur with her husband Nigel, a British colonial plantation owner, and their young son, Teddy. When Connie accidentally causes the death of a native woman in a road accident, it is the beginning of a terrifying ordeal. Connie believes the dead woman has cursed her and that her two orphaned children, Maya and Razak, are intent on avenging their mother.
When the Imperial Japanese army invades Malaya, Connie and her family try to escape on the family's boat, The White Pearl. On this perilous journey Connie has to come to terms with secrets from her own and her family's past.
The greatest thing about this book is the scene-setting. The author appeals to all the senses with her descriptions of the sights, sounds, heat and smells of the jungles and shanty-towns of this colonial outpost. I was also impressed with the portrayal of Connie's character: she comes across as fragile and feminine but with a shining inner strength.
Many of the other characters, however, are implausible and I was unable to believe in them. I could not visualise, for instance, Connie's love affair with Sho, and the dialogue was stilted and unconvincing. This is a character-driven book where the plot acts only as background. The failure of the characters to drive the story is a major criticism therefore.
It is not a bad book. Worth reading for the unusual and exotic location, evocatively descriptive writing, and fascinating vignette of colonial life. But I shan't be keeping it on my shelf with a view to a future second reading.