Storyline Rating : 5/5 stars
Brief Summary from Goodreads :
Penang, 1939. Sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner. Half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip’s family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei – to whom he owes absolute loyalty – has been harbouring a devastating secret.Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is.
My Point of View :
A beautifully written historical tale.
It’s my first time reading historical fiction and also a book written by a Malaysian writer. I can’t say I expected anything at first because I have the tendency to stop reading a book if it’s too detailed or when it’s not my cup of tea (historical fiction is most definitely not my thing). The beginning of the story is most definitely too detailed….as in it describes too much about the surroundings of the characters are in (I get bored pretty quick if there’s too much detail). I had to stop reading a few times and force myself to read it (it took me more than a day to complete the book, which is longer than I normally take to read one book).
But as the story progresses, I find myself unable to put down the book. It is as if I open a box that contains Philip’s memories of the past. I can imagine myself in the story as an audience, watching history unfold from Philip’s POV. Also, I really love the way Chinese, Japanese and a little bit of Malaysian culture blend into the story – it makes it easier for me to imagine the story in my head, as I’m a Malaysian Chinese with an interest in Japanese culture.
The story begins with a woman, whom we later know as Michiko, came to visit an already aged Philip Hutton. She is visiting Philip with the hopes that he will tell her what happened to Endo-san – Michiko’s first love and Philip’s sensei (teacher)/friend. And so…with a heavy heart, Philip recount his and Endo-san’s past to Michiko.
The story is so beautiful that I do not have words to describe, one would have to read and understand. If you like historical fiction or maybe you’re like me, who want to attempt reading Malaysian literature – this is the book for you. Try reading three to four chapters before you deem it boring, as I can assure you, the book is anything but boring.
Favourite Quotes :
“Who can look back and truly say all his memories are happy ones? To have memories, happy or sorrowful, is a blessing, for it shows we have lived our lives without reservation. Do you not agree? – Michiko
“Duty is a concept created by emperors and generals to deceive us into performing their will. Be wary when duty speaks, for it often masks the voice of others. Others who do not have your interests at heart.”