I’m pleased to be able to share an extract from The Painter of Penang by Clare Flynn today. Thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.
First of all, what’s the book about?
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.
Now read an excerpt from the book
By the time Jasmine arrived home her uniform frock was soaking wet with perspiration and her knee-socks were grubby and sagging around her ankles. Five miles was a long walk in the middle of the day and with few trees to offer shade. Her feet dragged when she stepped into the house her shoes covered in dust from the road. Her plan to creep to her bedroom, wash and change out of her dirty clothes was foiled when she heard her mother calling her from the long stone terrace that wrapped around three sides of the house. Jasmine crossed the entrance hall, her dirty shoes in her hands and stepped out onto the terrace where Evie was sitting at a table.
‘I thought you’d be having a nap,’ Jasmine said, lamely. ‘Don’t you usually after lunch?’
‘Well I’m not today.’ Evie sucked her breath in and studied her daughter’s dishevelled appearance. ‘How did you get home?’
‘In this heat! No wonder you look such a state.’ Evie stretched out a hand and gently pushed a stray strand of hair away from Jasmine’s eyes. She gave her a sad smile. ‘I got a letter from the Reverend Mother this morning.’
‘Oh.’ Jasmine lowered her eyes. At least she wouldn’t have to break the news to her stepmother herself.
‘Come here. Sit with me.’ Evie took the girl by the hand and drew her into a seat beside her. ‘You’ve been very unhappy, haven’t you? I’m sorry I hadn’t realised things had got so bad. I’ve been so wrapped up with so many other things when I should have encouraged you to talk to me about it.’
Jasmine had been preparing herself for anger, for disappointment, for reprimands, but had not allowed for the possibility that Evie might instead offer only sympathy. Overwhelmed, she burst into tears.
Evie leaned forward and wrapped Jasmine in her arms, stroking her hair. ‘Oh, my poor darling. I wish you’d felt able to tell me about it. I must have seemed very preoccupied. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t more sympathetic.’
Jasmine tried to sniff back her tears, as she breathed in the familiar scent of her mother’s lily of the valley perfume.
‘It’s not your fault, Mummy. It’s me. I know I should have told you I’d been skipping school, but you and Arthur and Hugh are all so happy here and I didn’t want to complain, but… but… I’m utterly miserable. I hate school. I’m glad they’ve expelled me. The girls are mean, and they talk about me all the time behind my back. And I miss Katy so much. Now she’s gone I can’t bear it anymore. Not only school, but everything. I don’t think I can bear living here anymore.’
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.