June 26th, 2019


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In Another Light, by Andrew Greig

Second paragraph of third chapter:
I had never even seen a photograph of him from before he met my mother, and she has none. Apparently he had never been young.
My father was born in Penang, now in Malaysia, in 1928, and this book is about a middle-aged Scotsman tracing the history of his own father's time in Penang at almost exactly the same time. So there was a lot of personal interest in it for me. The narrative cuts back and forth between 2004 Britain (mostly Orkney with bits of London and elsewhere) and 1930s Malaya, both of them vividly portrayed - one certainly gets a sense of Penang as a colonial outpost with much restrained ferment (and Orkney as a much more unbuttoned island community). Both father and son have romantic intrigues and dilemmas, and several plot strands are brought together very satisfactorily at the end. All the characters are Scottish, English or local to Penang (so no Irish like my grandfather or Americans like my grandmother), but on the other hand the narrator's father's specialisation is obstetrics, which is rather relevant for my family in this case. I really enjoyed this. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2011, and the non-genre fictyion book that had lingered longest on my unread shelves. Next in those piles respectively are Anthropological Studies of Religion: An Introductory Text, by Brian Morris, and Alina, by Jason Johnston.