Winner of the Wales Book of the Year 2014 Fiction Category
In 1996 Elsa lies in hospital reflecting on a past full of contrasts of place, language and circumstances, of safety and danger, and the awakening and dying of love. Back in 1940, far from their west Wales home, Elsa and her first husband, Captain Tommy Jones, had lived the privileged colonial life of Allied civilian ex-patriots in Hong Kong, their experiences both interdependent and contrasting with those of the Chinese who serve them. While news of the war worsens Elsa loses her first child and fault-lines open in the marriage as she becomes aware of Tommy’s increasing interest in another, more sophisticated woman. Then the Japanese soldiers arrive and the Europeans are herded into an internment camp, where the tensions between Elsa and Tommy increase. Later, the difficulties of adjustment to postwar life are subtly delineated, as Elsa, Tommy and their young daughter, Mari return from the Far East to Wales and a changing community.
In this memorable first novel, inspired by the experiences of her great-aunt, Francesca Rhydderch, explores with sensitivity and acuity the effects of wartime on an impulsive marriage and the evolving strengths and weaknesses of individuals in the face of crisis.
'A poignant and accomplished first novel.'
'The Rice Paper Diaries is a stylish debut. Rhydderch writes beautifully, each sentence elegantly honed.'