Hello, Sunshines, I have the pleasure to be sharing my review for; A Painter in Penang by Clare Flynn. Full disclosure this review was supposed to be apart of the blog tour organised by the wonderful Kelly from Love Books Tours, but things happen don’t they and it just didn’t get posted when it was supposed to. Ah, well, hopefully, this year will be better for me actually posting when I should. Anyway, let’s have a look at this book…
About the Book
A Painter in Penang by Clare Flynn.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Jasmine Barrington hates everything about living in Kenya and longs to return to the island of Penang in British colonial Malaya where she was born. Expulsion from her Nairobi convent school offers a welcome escape – the chance to stay with her parents’ friends, Mary and Reggie Hyde-Underwood on their Penang rubber estate.
But this is 1948 and communist insurgents are embarking on a reign of terror in what becomes the Malayan Emergency. Jasmine unearths a shocking secret as her own life is put in danger. Throughout the turmoil, her one constant is her passion for painting.
From the international best-selling and award-winning author of The Pearl of Penang, this is a dramatic coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a tropical paradise torn apart by civil war.
Buy Link : https://amzn.to/3iyTFYD
This is the first book I’ve read by Clare Flynn, and I will definitely be seeking out more books, as I really enjoyed her transportive writing. Even though I suspect this can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, personally I would recommend reading the previous books, as I did at times feel as though I had missed out on certain aspects of the character’s lives before this book.
The story follows sixteen-year-old Jasmine, who absolutely hates living in Kenya, she is deeply unhappy all she wants is to go home, back to Penang in Malaya. She has been expelled from school, not that she’s too bothered about that, all she wants is to go back home.
To be perfectly honest I was in two frames of mind about Jasmine, on one hand, I felt for her she is a sad, lonely and miserable little girl who wants nothing more than to go home, and yet on the other hand – and I do hate to say it, as this book is so beautifully written – I thought she was a bit of a brat, a spoiled little girl who isn’t thankful for the good she has; yes she is living with her step-parents in a different country and she misses her homeland, but so are thousands of others. She is cared for and loved, she has food on the table and an education and most of all she is safe, not all girls in this era could say the same. At times I did think she was a selfish and quite irritating stereotypical teenager. Apologies!
This is actually one of the reasons that I don’t read a lot of young adults anymore, as I do find teenage whining and all woe is me thing a bit of a turn off in books, no matter how well written or how thrilling the plot, I just find teenage tantrums a bore. Again apologies!
But, her stepmother soon does exactly what Jasmine wants and sends her back to Penang to live with friends, but once there is life going to be all hunky-dory as she wants it to be?
Well, the easy answer to that is; no! For our Jasmine has just landed right in the centre of the Malayan Emergency, not only is there trouble and strife around her but there are old family secrets that soon rear their heads, which could put Jasmine in danger.
As you may have gathered I wasn’t completely taken with the lead character, but what I did love about this is the other character’s; I was intrigued by Mary and Reggie – I believe their story is in a previous book, so I will read that one too. The setting was so perfectly captured and the author’s attention to historical detail and the amount of research which must have gone into achieving such a compelling and evocative read. It was as though I was standing side by side with Jasmine in Penang, there is a beautiful vividness to the story which really ignites the imagination and makes you want to learn more about the history behind the story.
I have to be honest, I hadn’t actually heard of the Malayan Emergency before this, this is a part of history which is completely new to me, but because of Claire Flynn’s timeless and classy writing, I am intrigued and want to learn more about this period of history. I do love it when a book does that, don’t you?
A Painter of Penang is a perfect book for those first coming into the historical fiction genre to start with as it’s a lot lighter than the usual historical fiction I read, I felt it’s definitely more of a young adult/coming of age story. I love that this focusses more on the feelings and emotions of the character’s, you are instantly pulled into their space and you get to know them very quickly, which is another aspect I really liked about the book, I love getting to know the character’s straight away then you can really focus on the story.
About the Author
Historical novelist Clare Flynn is a former global marketing director and business owner. She now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England and most of her time these days is spent writing her novels – when she’s not gazing out of her windows at the sea.
Clare is the author of eleven novels and a short story collection. Her books deal with displacement – her characters are wrenched away from their comfortable existences and forced to face new challenges – often in outposts of an empire which largely disappeared after WW2.
Her latest novel, Prisoner From Penang, was published on 17th April 2020. It is set in South East Asia during the Japanese occupation in World War Two.
Clare’s novels often feature places she knows well and she does extensive research to build the period and geographic flavour of her books. A Greater World – 1920s Australia; Kurinji Flowers – pre-Independence India; Letters from a Patchwork Quilt – nineteenth century industrial England and the USA; The Green Ribbons – the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century in rural England, The Chalky Sea – World War II England (and Canada) and its sequels The Alien Corn and The Frozen River – post WW2 Canada. She has also published a collection of short stories – both historical and contemporary, A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories.
Fluent in Italian, she loves spending time in Italy. In her spare time she likes to quilt, paint and travel as often and as widely as possible. She is an active member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors, NINC and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Get a free copy of Clare’s exclusive short story collection, A Fine Pair of Shoes, at www.clareflynn.co.uk.