Told as memories of an old man tying up loose ends in preparation for the end of his life, this book is a story of friendship, loyalty, pride, and honor.
Mixed-race teen Philip Hutton doesn't feel he fits in anywhere - with his full-English siblings and father, with his full-Chinese relatives, or anywhere else on the island of Penang. Then, a raw, strong connection forms with the Japanese diplomat who's renting land from Philip's father; a friendship that will define the rest of his life.
Similar in tone to "Memoirs of a Geisha" or "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," the book is written with poetic language and florid descriptions of a culture, sites, and lifestyle that are truly foreign to most westerners. The author works hard to illustrate the traditions of honor and face that are so important to the characters, to show how they influence every decision they make.
I enjoyed the book, but it's not a fast read. Several times I went to the internet to look up maps, objects and even words for a better, more thorough understanding of the book. (Book club is discussing this one tonight, and I'm curious to see what they thought.)