My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Orchid Tree is a historical drama set in Hong Kong. The First part is from 1941 – 1945 during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII. Fifteen year old Kate Wolseley is British and lives with her parents on The Peak. When the Japanese invade and the governor surrenders no one can quite believe what happens.
Once the Japanese have taken over, Kate and her family are moved to the Stanley Internment Camp, an ex-prison. Conditions are poor and food soon runs very short. Kate makes friends with Charles Pearce a half Chinese boy as they queue each day for water and attend lessons together. The descriptions and imagery are very thought provoking as everyone waits to be rescued by either the British or the Americans.
Across the water in Macau we meet Sophia Rodrigues and her family who are from Portuguese descent. During the war, Macau was neutral, yet Japanese people still arrived in the area. Sophia’s father is head of the Macau gold consortium and befriends the Japanese Kimura family. Sophia is half Chinese and is close to her Uncle who is involved with smuggling. During the war he smuggles medicines into the POW camps.
As the recapture of Hong Kong drew nearer, situations on both sides got very desperate, Charles is arrested one day when the prison guards learn of a radio that the prisoners are listening to. News comes that Charles was on a ship heading for a Japanese labour camp when the boat as torpedoed and everyone fears the worse.
A heart-broken Kate and her father go to Australia after the war, but both return to their home in Hong Kong later. Part two of the book covers the years 1948-1949. Hong Kong rebuilds itself and there are many opportunities to make money for enterprising individual’s. The population is growing fast with the spread of communism in China and people fleeing the fighting. Sophia and Kate are both young ladies now and their lives and loves link them in more ways than one.
I enjoyed this book, it was a very good insight into the war years and how Hong Kong expanded in the post war years.
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