This is not only a novel of personal adventure set against a background of gathering war, it is also about the meeting of two cultures: the West, which imposes its ways, and the East, which accommodates and endures--for a time.
The British have made exotic Ceylon into an image of upper-class England, with exclusive clubs, Peak Frean biscuits, and the CHURCH TIMES. Formidable ladies organize fund-raising events to help the war effort, while “Rule Britannia” plays on the gramophone. Even the refugees from Singapore sing “There’ll Always Be an England” as they arrive at the harbor.
Some of the characters, however, have a deeper self-awareness. The governor, Sir Oliver Prestcott, watches events slipping out of his control with a kind of bemused resignation. Although he shares the Kiplingesque view of foreigners as a somewhat odd and unpredictable bunch, he knows that the British are like dragonflies, alighting on the great river of the East, being carried along by it for a time, and then vanishing. There is a sense in this novel of things changing and passing, of not being what they used to be, and never being so again.
Hudson, the author of the best-selling THE KILLING FIELDS, is a writer of formidable gifts. He takes the reader directly into the deepest moments of human experience, whether it is the exquisite tenderness of new love or the exhilaration of combat in the air and at sea. His novel captures intense moments in the lives of individuals and weaves them into a larger context, the tide of history and the transience of all things.