Bookworms Review: The Other Side of Paradise

Posted on: 06 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

50connect Bookworms Review The Other Side of Paradise by Margaret Mayhew

It is 1941, and while Britain is in the grip of war, the life of an ex-pat in the Far East remains one of wealth and privilege.

In Singapore, Susan Roper spends her time dancing, playing tennis and flirting with visiting naval officers – her life is devoted solely to pleasure. When she meets an Australian doctor who warns her of the danger they all face, she dismisses him as an ignorant colonial.

Singapore carries on partying, oblivious to the threat of invasion. The British flag will, they believe, protect them from all enemies.

But when Japan invades, Susan finds herself in grave danger. As she becomes closer to the tough, arrogant and unsuitable doctor, Susan has to face many hardships before she can acknowledge the truth.

Bookworm Iris Short Writes:

The Other Side Of Paradise by Margaret Mayhew, is an extremely well written book, that draws you in on the first page.

It's 1941 and Britain struggles in the grip of war. Yet in faraway Singapore Susan Roper enjoys the good life. This is about to change and Susan's story becomes one of love, determination and courage.

Mayhew's description of the Far East is alive with colour, her characters so real, that they become a part of your life.

The Other Side Of Paradise was a truly remarkable book that I just couldn’t put down.

Bookworm Lorraine Hubble Writes:

I have never visited Singapore but through the descriptive writing of Margaret Mayhew I have seen the beauty of Singapore in 1941, smelt the smells and walked the streets as they must have, experienced the heat of the sun and the wetness of the monsoon. 

This book was a non stop read, if the Japanese army had been in my living room I would not have put this book down, with so many twists and turns in the characters lives I just had to keep turning those pages.

Mayhew takes you to a world where British rule, and it seems nobody can touch them. You are introduced to Susan Roper who whiles her hours away in Raffles or at the Tanglin.

Despite repeated warnings from many different sources, Susan fails to see the danger which is facing Singapore. Like her circle of friends and family, she believes that the British will not be beaten by the Japanese and continues to live her life of wealth and privilege.

Susan’s family live in splendour, spending most of their time partying until Susan meets Ray, an Australian doctor, at a party. He warns her of the approaching Japanese army but Susan pushes Rays warnings out of her head. After all the British army will protect them.

After meeting Ray, Susan’s life changes, she joins the volunteers at the hospital where Ray works, and although she still detests Ray for even suggesting Singapore will fall, she goes out of her way to prove to Ray that she is not just a spoilt young lady.

Then the unthinkable happens, the Japanese army approach Singapore and Susan makes good her escape. Unfortunately all does not go well and Susan finds herself guardian of Peter, whose mother had died at the hospital where Susan volunteered, and Hua whose family had been killed during a bombing raid.

Susan, Peter and Hua leave Singapore but get captured and end up as prisoners. Will they all survive, will her family survive and what will happen to the children and Susan?

This book had me riveted from page to page. I had to know what happened to each of the characters and the end did not disappoint!

Bookworm John Nichol Writes:

The Other Side Of Paradise is set in 1940s Singapore before and after the Japanese invasion.

It boded well with an introduction but it soon became apparent that the heroine, Susan, was a stuck up snob, brought up to behave that everyone of lesser rank in life was beneath her.

Susan only started to redeem herself after she finds the children. Her driving of the ambulance helped her to find out quite quickly that life in the real world was a different place to what she was used to, especially after the war started in earnest.

Her trials and tribulations in the prisoner of war camp were, I am sure, quite authentic as the author has meticulously investigated but it lacked any aspect of suspense.

The realisation that Susan had lost her father and that her mother was in Australia changed her attitude towards the country. She later meets Doctor Ray Harvey, who she had met before the fall of Singapore which was interesting.

However, because the book had gone on about the invasion, the epic love story was a bit of a damp squib.

All in all, this entire book promised much but as far as I am concerned failed to live up to its promise of an epic love story of courage under the shadow of war. 

The romance was more of what Singapore was like before the invasion, rather than the love story between Susan and Ray Harvey and in my estimation, more should have been made between these two main characters.

Bookworm Sue Davis Writes:

18 year-old Susan Roper is living in Singapore in 1941. With the threat of invasion by the Japanese dismissed as unthinkable, Susan plays tennis and parties with no thought to the future, waited on hand and foot.

The first half of the book describes life to perfection and you can really imagine what it must have been like to live as a wealthy ex-pat. Probably because life was so different then, it's rather hard to like the heroine.

The second half of the novel covers  the story of what happens to Susan when invasion does happen, and what a disappointment it was; rather as if the author was on a deadline and needed to get the book over and done with! Atmospheric descriptions were dispensed with, replaced with the bare bones of a story of captivity and liberty. What should have been a most exciting and interesting episode was glossed over and then all the ends were neatly finished!

Not an author I've read before and not one I'd read again in a hurry!

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