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I was eagerly awaiting Siobhan Daiko's new novel "The Orchid Tree" after downloading and enjoying her short story "Fragrant Haven" which introduces one of the novel's main characters, James. In the same masterful way that Siobhan Daiko builds suspense within her novels, she also heightened my anticipation of "The Orchid Tree" by first introducing me to James and then releasing the novel that features him a couple weeks later.
The research that Ms Daiko has conducted in order to write a novel about Hong Kong under Japanese Occupation and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War is considerable, although I suspect that only someone who has spent her childhood and youth in Hong Kong and who has known and spoken to relatives and family friends who survived the Occupation could depict the experiences of her characters with such accuracy and poignancy. We suffer through the horrors of the internment camp with Kate, even as we maintain our curiosity about the enigmatic Sofia who remains technically free on Macau but is imprisoned by, for want of a better word, dysfunctional family. The literary device that Ms Daiko uses in interweaving the stories of these two young women is quite effective; when they (inevitably) meet after the war the reader is almost at a loss to know which young woman to identify with, as they are quite different, with only their strength and resilience in common.
I would highly recommend this novel, as I would recommend to Ms Daiko an eventual follow-up on the characters in "The Orchid Tree". Each character is so vividly-drawn and likeable that by the end of the novel we, the readers, are left wanting to know more about their lives. For me, this is the hallmark of good story-telling, and Ms Daiko excels at this.