in 1938 sisters, Juliet and Rose arrive in Penang to stay with an aunt after the death of their father in England. Juliet falls in love with the dashing Gavin Crosby, a plantation owner who is looking for a bride. Having left her sister and aunt to live in an exotic fairytale with her new husband in Malaya, Juliet is taken aback when she learns of the Crosby family secrets.
After Malaya and Singapore are occupied by Japan in 1941, Juliet’s life changes and she spends the ensuing decades alone on the plantation, that is until in 1962 a young woman named Mary arrives at the plantation and Juliet discovers that she may not have lost all of her family after all.
This is a beautifully written book and it feels like you’ve stepped into a time machine when the author describes each place and time period. I love reading books that make changes between time periods so effortlessly that you don’t notice and feel completely immersed.
Read this book if you:
- Enjoy stories set during wartime
- Enjoy family sagas
- Would like to learn more about Malaya and Singapore
Excerpt from The Planter’s Wife by Ann Bennett
We were beginning to remember him with love and affection rather than with the intense pain of recent grief. Sitting in our deckchairs under the clear blue sky, with the chug-chug of the ship’s engines as background, we spent hours discussing our memories of Father, sometimes squabbling over little details.
‘Do you remember that time Father took us to Brighton on the train, Jules?’ said Rose. ‘I think I was about five. You must have been seven or something. It was really sunny, and we went on the pier. There was a Punch-and-Judy show going on and a whole crowd of people watching. You were terrified of Punch and screamed blue murder. Everyone in the crowd turned round to stare at you, thinking what a dreadful child you were, feeling sorry for poor old Father. But he just ignored all their looks, lifted you up, popped you on his shoulders and pretended to be a horse, and galloped off down the pier leaving them all staring.’
I laughed. ‘Yes, I do remember that day, Rose, but it wasn’t me who created such a fuss about Punch and Judy … It was you! I was the one left standing at the back of the crowd with everyone staring, waiting for you both to come back.’
‘And I remember that when you did come back, Father had bought us all enormous ice creams with flakes.’
‘He was so generous, wasn’t he?’ said Rose, her eyes shining, ‘It must have been so hard for him, especially when we were small … Two little girls to bring up, having to entertain us when he came home from work. He probably just wanted to get down to his garden shed, listen to his wireless and do his woodwork in peace.’
‘And we always insisted on going to his shed with him to help,’ I said, smirking.
‘Do you remember when he was making that doll-house for us, and he let us help him paint it? He gave us strict instructions that the walls were to be yellow and the roof red. We’d just got started when Mrs. Hutchins next door called over the fence to talk to him about something. They were chatting for ages, and you and I thought it would be wonderful to paint the walls of his shed yellow for a surprise.’
‘I remember his face when he saw what we’d done! It looked such a dreadful mess, didn’t it? He went bright red for a few minutes. I thought he might shout at us. But he couldn’t be angry for long, could he? When he saw our faces, he couldn’t stop laughing.’
‘And do you remember his bedtime stories? He didn’t need a book. He knew them all by heart. All the fairy tales. And he had stories of his own too. Stories none of the children at school knew, about giants and witches and magical kingdoms.’