The Monsoon Bride
The Monsoon Bride by Michelle Aung Thin, Text Publishing, $29.95.
This is a first novel, shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards unpublished manuscript fellowship last year so why, I kept wondering, does the story seem vaguely familiar?
Then I twigged: it's (Graham) Greene-land. Meeting place of colonial upheaval, moral ambiguity and tropical sex, usually breaking taboos of class and race.
Of course, Thin's is an original work, no suggestion otherwise but an ability to conjure up the steamy, exotic flavour of Greene is something to admire and it hooked me from the start.
It's the story of a mixed-race girl, Winsome, rattling on a night train towards Rangoon, while the man she's just married who picked her out at the convent, whose skin has "a peppery, meaty sweetness" snores gently beside her.
The year is 1930, Burmese nationalism is on the rise and Rangoon will soon be in flames, though neither the heat, nor the blood on the streets, will penetrate the clubs or consciences of the white masters.