Mala Pandurang reviews A Crowd of Twisted Things by Dawn Farnham (Monsoon books: Singapore . 2013, 326 pages. USD $ 15.95)
A Crowd of Twisted Things is set in Singapore in 1950. Annie Collins returns from Australia to Singapore in May 1950, in search of her daughter Suzy, whom she has lost in the midst of the Second World War. Her quest takes us into the turbulent period of the Japanese occupation of the former British colony. Of Eurasian origin, Annie recounts her unhappy past as a hybrid of colonial circumstances, being ‘half a native of somewhere not white’. She seeks the escape route of a loveless marriage to fifty six year old Australian Ronald, who detests that their baby daughter has a darker complexion. Annie is grievously injured by Ronald just as the Japanese occupy the island, and this trauma imposes a loss of memory. She therefore does not know what has happened to her daughter.
Dawn Farnham is so spirited that it is difficult to pin her down to a single place. She was born in Portsmouth, England in 1949 but grew up in Perth, Western Australia. In the sixties, she left for England and met and married her journalist husband, Roger, and moved to Paris with him. There she learned French and lots of other things and travelled round Europe in a Volkswagen beetle. As her foreign correspondent husband moved from one exotic location to another, she lived in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Singapore. She did a B.A. in Japanese at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and a Master’s Degree at Kings College.
It was in Singapore that she really found the freedom to pursue an old love–writing. She is the author of many successful novels set in Singapore (The Red Thread, The Shallow Seas, The Hills of Singapore, among others). Currently, she is based in Perth. Her latest novel is A Crowd of Twisted Things. This new novel follows the fortunes of young Eurasian, Annie Collins, as she seeks her baby daughter, given away by her murderous Australian husband as the Japanese tanks rolled into Singapore in 1942, and finds much more than she bargained for.
Here is an exclusive interview with the author.