About the Book
Hong Kong, 1950. Now the war is over, Dr Rowena Rossiter is ready to plan a new life with her great love, Connor O’Connor. But before they can, bad news arrives.
A female doctor is urgently needed in Seoul and the powers that be want Rowena to go. She refuses – until rumours begin to swirl about the sinister, beautiful man who held her captive during the war.
They say he may still be alive and looking for her. By comparison, Korea on the brink of war seems safer, but will Rowena ever truly be able to escape the shadows of her violent past?
Format: Hardcover (422 pages) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 5th March 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find Summer of the Three Pagodas on Goodreads
The events in Summer of the Three Pagodas follow on from Jean Moran’s previous book, Tears of the Dragon. If, like me, you haven’t read the earlier book I can reassure you that Summer of the Three Pagodas works perfectly well as a standalone read. However, it does contain references to key events in Tears of the Dragon which would amount to spoilers for that book.
Kim Pheloung, the ‘sinister, beautiful man’ mentioned in the book description (and who featured prominently in the previous book) is a constant if shadowy presence in Summer of the Three Pagodas. However, Rowena’s fear that he may still pose a threat to her and her daughter, Dawn, propels much of the plot and will have dramatic and, in some cases, tragic consequences. And, as it happens, there’s another candidate for ‘chief villain’ close at hand who proves to be just as ruthless.
The storyline moves between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, to Korea and back again. There is some great descriptive writing. I particularly liked how the author conjured up the atmosphere of Kowloon’s Walled City, a squalid labyrinth of ‘shambolic and haphazard construction’, full of dark alleyways that are the haunt of criminal gangs. A place to venture into at your peril.
It seems the author has a fondness for invertebrate-related similes. For example, ‘The local headquarters was based in what had been a school, typewriters clicking like manic grasshoppers.‘ Or how about
‘The chock-chock-chock sound of helicopter blades filled the air, their outlines like a swarm of hornets roused from their nest.‘ Later a helicopter is described as hanging ‘like a black insect in the sky, like a huge mosquito’ and later still another as like ‘a black spider’. Ugh.
As well as being a compelling, well-crafted story, Summer of the Three Pagodas exposes the cruelty and futility of war and explores issues such as racism, the plight of refugees and women’s rights. The book features some strong female characters; Rowena herself but also the capable and formidable Kate, sister of Rowena’s partner, Connor, and the courageous Sheridan Warrington, prepared to defy her father despite the consequences. As Rowena remarks at one point, “This is nineteen fifty. The world is changing.”
My thanks to Lauren at Head of Zeus for my advance review copy.
In three words: Atmospheric, compelling, romantic
Try something similar: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
About the Author
Jean Moran was a columnist and editor before writing full-time. She has since published over fifty novels and been a bestseller in Germany.
Jean was born and raised in Bristol. Her mother, who endured both the depression and war years, was a natural born storyteller, and it’s from her telling of actual experiences of the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century that Jean gets her inspiration.
Her novel Tears of the Dragon was published by Head of Zeus in 2019. Jean now lives in Bath. (Photo credit: Publisher author page)
Connect with Jean