I entered a giveaway in hopes of winning a copy of THE SEPARATION by Dinah Jefferies because the era of British colonialism in Malaysia, especially in the 1950s, was not something I have ever read about. I know it happened, but I didn’t know about it. A fictional account of a woman who has her children stolen from her by her husband probably isn’t the best place to learn about it, but it seemed an interested enough premise at least.
And it was.
The first thing on my mind about THE SEPARATION is that it seemed disjointed. The story is told from two perspectives; Lydia Cartwright, the mother, and Emma Cartwright, the oldest daughter – twelve at the start of the story. Lydia’s story of searching for her family and mourning them is told in the third person. Emma’s story of adjusting to life outside Malaysia and missing her mother is told in the first person. Lydia’s story seems to skip weeks and months at a time. Emma’s story proceeds on a much more day-to-day speed. Since the chapters take turns between mother and daughter, it can seem unbalanced at times.
None of that is to say that it isn’t a compelling story.
Some things do seem far-fetched; such as a woman engaging in affair in the exclusive circles of British Malaysia having no idea whatsoever that her husband – who moves across the globe to get back at her – had affairs of his own, including fathering a mixed race child he doted on and left behind. It seems as though Jefferies, in trying to make the story believable goes above and beyond, reaching into the unbelievable. It’s enough to have a few people have affairs, for example, but having literally every character be engaged in something outside marriage is too much.
Really, there are too many characters who seem just the same and too few characters who are truly individuals.
I wanted more. What I got was good enough, but not great.
(I received a copy of THE SEPARATION through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program in exchange for an honest review. This review will be cross-posted on my book review blog and my Goodreads account.)