Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies

1950s Malaya is the setting for Dinah Jefferies debut novel, The Separation, in which British expat, Alec Cartwright, cruelly wreaks revenge on his unfaithful wife in a way that has lasting implications. Lydia Cartwright returns home after visiting a sick friend to find her husband and daughters gone, the family bank account almost empty. Believing Alec has taken the children to his new posting in the north, she decides to travel alone to find them.

Malaya at this time is rife with insurgents engaged in guerilla warfare, and Lydia’s journey is beset with danger. Her desperation over the fate of her family amid all this strife is truly harrowing. Meanwhile the novel also tracks the fortunes of Emma, Lydia’s eleven-year-old daughter, who must adjust to the cold English climate and boarding school having been led to assume her mother has deserted them.

The two stories – Lydia’s fragile hope of one day finding her children and Emma’s difficulty settling into the new life her father has determined for them – make for engaging story-telling and for me the pages just flew by. There are numerous setbacks for Lydia and Emma and both find the path to the truth beset by obstacles. All this creates plenty of drama and suspense and the characters of Lydia and Emma captivate the reader’s sympathy. Both characters must dig deep to find new strengths they didn’t realise they had.

The Separation is a great escapist read loaded with atmosphere from a promising new author. Her new book, The Tea Planter’s Wife will be released in August.

Posted by JAM

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