Gillian Hindmarsh is an Australian researcher, investigating architectural history in Penang, Malaysia. From a city archive, she souvenirs a photograph of Rose, a young English woman from the 1940s. In Gillian's imagination, Rose is a black and white romantic fantasy taken from an old forties movie. Rose, however, was real. She has no family name to identify her. Her ghost is seen from time to time by fisherman in the waters off Georgetown, and in 1982, when disturbed by dredging for a bridge to the mainland, she looks for a body into which to reincarnate. And she wants her lover, Li-tsieng to reincarnate also. Wang Li-tsieng, the dissolute son of a wealthy Straits Chinese family, returned from the safety of exile in Chile, to be with his English Rose. Shortly after his return, they were killed by a bomb, as they danced in the underwater dining hall of one of the Wang family mansions in Georgetown. Patrick Dreher, Gillian's lover, is a dredging engineer who rents a house on Jalan Dunn, where he is disturbed by Rose's spectral presence. Rose makes a significant choice by allowing herself to be seen by Gillian, in Patrick's house.
The novel weaves together issues of history and memory, east and west, body and spirit, coloniser and colonised in a fiction that interrogates the ways we order both individual and collective histories to make sense of our own worlds. In this dark romance, loss and madness hover just below the surface.
Carolyn can Langenberg