Having loved Singapore on the occasions I have been fortunate to go there, I am delighted to welcome Isobel Scharen to the blog today because not only was Isobel born in Singapore, her book is based there. My thanks to Kim at Publishing Push for putting us in touch with one another. We all need to travel vicariously in these strange times so let’s see what Isobel told me when she stayed in with me:
Staying in with Isobel Scharen
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Isobel. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Hello. Thanks so much for inviting me to share this evening with you.
My pleasure. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along A Better Life, my debut novel that was published earlier this year.
Congratulations on your debut. What can we expect from an evening in with A Better Life?
What has struck me most is how varied readers’ reaction to the book have been, some of which I did not anticipate.
Many have loved it for the story of Ada and her struggles – dealing with her internment by the Japanese, separation from her daughter, the loss of her husband, her move to New Zealand which turns out not to be the haven of peace she might have imagined.
Some praised the sense of place I tried to create, particularly those who had a connection with wartime Singapore.
Others commented on the challenges of Ada’s mixed race marriage and single-handedly bringing up a mixed race daughter.
All have been engrossed by the love stories that underpin both halves of the book.
I think A Better Life sounds fabulous. You must be really delighted with those reactions. I hope to fit it in to my TBR very soon.
What else have you brought along and why?
This is an interesting question! I’ve brought two things for this evening. First is this beautiful Maori Tiki. My early years in New Zealand shaped my life. I was always interested in Maori culture and love these beautiful carved objects. It’s why I want to incorporate one in my book cover design.
Ah. I wondered about the significance of that image.
I’ve also brought a picture of a curry feast. When I was young my family constantly told me of the wonderful food they used to eat in Singapore. I have always wanted my food to taste divine and look colourful!
I can vouch for the food in Singapore Isobel!
After I moved to Europe and went on holiday in some of the (then) poorer parts of Europe, it was often hard to find good food to eat. I would often try to stave off hunger pangs by conjuring up vivid images of Singaporean food. I enjoyed writing about food in the book!
Any guest who loves their food is always welcome here Isobel. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about A Better Life. Let me give blog readers more details:
A Better Life
Ada, a young Englishwoman in early-1940s Singapore, is about to be married to Michael, a well-educated Anglo-Indian from a wealthy family. She dreams of a life of security and fulfilment.
Instead, when the Japanese invade, her family struggle to cope under occupation, while she is interned in Changi gaol. Separated from her baby daughter and her beloved Michael, who is torn between loyalty to his family and duty to his country, she needs all her will-power to survive.
After the war, Ada must decide how best to protect her child. She leaves Singapore in search of a better life only to experience prejudice and unkindness. But her journey will also bring compassion and hope.
This moving and engaging story is an insightful depiction of people deeply affected by the horrors of war, a mother’s bond with her child, and the momentous challenge of rebuilding one’s life in peace-time. A challenge which requires, above all, self-belief, the capacity to forgive, and the courage to love again.
A Better Life is available for purchase here.
About Isobel Scharen
Isobel Scharen was born in Singapore, where she was adopted by a mixed-race couple. She was educated in New Zealand before settling in England. She now divides her time between London and Bristol. A Better Life is her first novel.
You’ll find Isobel on Facebook.