This book tells of Philip Hutton, born half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, who finds an extraordinary friendship with a Japanese diplomat, Hayato Endo. Their friendship began when Philip decided to show his new-found friend around his beloved island, Penang, and Endo, in return, taught him Aikido.
But what Philip didn't realise was his seemingly-trustworthy sinsei, had other intentions. When the Japanese invaded Malaya, and threatened to harm Philip's family and everything else he loved, he discovered that his sinsei had been harbouring a devastating secret. In order to protect his family, Philip had to make terrible sacrifices, including betraying his own people. As the story unfolds, he began to question himself if he was doing the right thing, and if what he did was the best for everyone. This story questions the definition of love, hatred, loyalty, betrayal, friendship, loss, freedom and happiness.
Its luscious lyrical prose describing breathtaking sceneries, exotic and captivating images, sounds, aromas, and beautiful choreography of fights will keep your eyes glued to all of the 447 pages. One of my favourites:
"I have never seen the light of Penang replicated anywhere else in the world - bright, bringing everything into razor-sharp focus, yet at the same time warm and forgiving, making you want to melt into the walls it shines on, into the leaves it gives life to. It is the kind of light that illuminates not only what the eyes see, but also what the heart feels."
Though it could get pretty overwhelming at times (too much of anything isn't good), the compelling storyline would keep you going effortlessly with its seamless transition from one chapter to another. I thought Tan was also really good at making the characters come alive. Each character would draw you closer to them, as they open up themselves to you. One can't help but to fall in love with them.
You know how they have those 'blurbs' these authors put on the back covers rite? Or on the flaps....If they'd ever ask me for one (HAHA yea yea laugh louder :P), mine would be... "This beautiful story of love and friendship, would capture your heart from its very first page...and bring you to places in your heart you never thought existed..."
Book courtesy of Pansing Marketing.