This gorgeous book is set on the island of Penang, just before, during and after the Second World War. My knowledge of that part of history is sketchy at best so I really enjoyed this book which brought it all to life.
The story is that of Philip Hutton, a half-Chinese, half-British boy living with his wealthy family on a beautiful estate. He meets and befriends a Japanese man who becomes his sensei. Philip struggles with his identity and place within his family and society as tensions mount between the Chinese, British and Japanese at the time of the Japanese invasion of Penang, Malaysia and Singapore.
The main thing about this book and Eng's later book The Garden of Evening Mists is the beauty of the language and the gentle way he tells a story full of conflict and tension.
I thoroughly recommend both these books as insightful, beautifully told stories.