A Painter in Penang Clare FlynnI have read another couple of books by Clare Flynn and always enjoyed them so I looked forward to the chance to read and review this new release. Sixteen year old Jasmine is unhappy with her adopted parents in Kenya, and longs to return to her childhood home of Penang. By coincidence her old teacher needs help with her new baby, so Jasmine returns to Penang, unaware of all the changes that have happened whilst she was away. Jasmine is soon out of her depth, with confusing love interests, a country that has underlying tensions she doesn’t understand, and her own insecurities about her family.

The novel is framed as a romance, with a couple of love interests along the way – handsome Howard Baxter, an ex-pat employee in the rubber plantations, and Bintang, an enigmatic Malayan who has suffered atrocities at the hands of the Japanese and is deeply suspicious of the Brits and their motives for ‘helping’ Malaya.

The novel is more than just a romance though, with attention paid to the historical background and the unfolding difficulties of a colonising force attempting to solve another country’s problems, along with all the uncertainties and dilemmas that brings. Penang at this time is home to a seething melting pot of conflicting interests, including the British who want their rubber and natural resources, and the Chinese, including the Triads, who want to wrestle away that control. All this is well-detailed by Clare Flynn, who does a great job of giving us all the background without overwhelming the reader.

The book starts slowly but builds into a gripping climax once the fuse of rebellion is lit and the Chinese shoot the ‘tuans’ or masters of the plantations in a co-ordinated attack. This novel has a bit of everything – a coming-of-age romance, adventure, immersion in another culture, and you don’t need to have read the other books in the series to enjoy it. If you like well-researched historical sagas with depth, you will enjoy this.

Heartily recommended.



Clare Flynn is the author of twelve historical novels and a collection of short stories. A former International Marketing Director and strategic management consultant, she is now a full-time writer.

Having lived and worked in London, Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney, home is now on the coast, in Sussex, England, where she can watch the sea from her windows. An avid traveller, her books are often set in exotic locations.

Clare is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of The Society of Authors, Novelists Inc (NINC), ALLi, the Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists Association, where she serves on the committee as the Member Services Officer. When not writing, she loves to read, quilt, paint and play the piano. She continues to travel as widely and as far as possible all over the world.

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