Journey to Paradise by Paula Greenlees

My enormous thanks to Isabelle Ralphs at Penguin for sending me a copy of Journey to Paradise by Paula Greenlees in return for an honest review. Journey to Paradise was my Twixtmas read and I am delighted to share that review today.

Published by Arrow/Century, an imprint of Penguin, on 30th December 2021, Journey to Paradise is available for purchase through the links here.

Journey to Paradise

Singapore, 1948

When Miranda steps onto the pier with her husband Gerry at Singapore she hopes that this will be a fresh start; a chance to run from her darkest secret, and heal the scars from her past.

Gerry’s new role at the British foreign office affords a certain kind of lifestyle; a beautiful house, servants, and invites the best parties in town. But life in Singapore feels worlds apart from Miranda’s beloved home in England. True friends are hard to find in ex-pat society, and with Gerry spending all his time at work or drinking at the club, she loses hope that Singapore would save their marriage. So when Miranda meets kind-hearted Nick Wythenshaw, when volunteering at the local hospital, she begins to realise the depth of her own unhappiness, and dares to hope for more…

Meanwhile, riots are erupting across the region, and Singapore is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to be British. As the danger draws ever closer to home, Miranda must make the toughest decision she has ever had to face – to choose between duty and happiness, and risk ruin.

My Review of Journey to Paradise

Miranda and Gerry are starting a new life in Singapore.

It’s difficult to believe this is Paula Greenlees’ debut novel because her writing is so assured and beautifully crafted. Her descriptions in Journey to Paradise evoke strong images in the reader’s mind so that the Singapore setting is both photographic and filmic in quality, drawing in her reader completely. I loved how the scents, the heat and the local settings are depicted through such skilled use of the senses that I felt myself transported back to Singapore. Pitch perfect descriptions meant I could see and touch the glorious silks, smell and taste the food and hear the sounds of the markets and birds.

The plot in Journey to Paradise is a skilful blend of Miranda’s personal life with the historical context of 1949 so that there’s a real authenticity to the story that enriches the reader’s experience. Equally convincing is the insight into the social hierarchy of Singapore’s society, both for the local people and the ex-patriot community. I found the social mores, the snobbery and the hypocrisy completely fascinating.

All that said, the real strength in Journey to Paradise comes through the characterisation of Miranda. Her sense of isolation, her grief and her personality are totally convincing. Whilst she may have physically sailed to a paradise island, the real journey comes through her understanding of herself and those in her life. In many ways, Journey to Paradise is a feminist text, exemplifying how women can survive and thrive without men in their lives. By the time I’d finished reading Journey to Paradise I felt I’d had a privileged insight into mind of a complex, realistic woman.

The other people are equally compelling. Paula Greenlees has a real skill in depicting the lives and attitudes of even the most minor characters so that the social and historical elements of the narrative come to life very vividly. I must admit that I loathed Gerry from the very beginning and was fascinated to see how his character played out in the story – but you’ll need to read Journey to Paradise to see what I mean.

Themes of marriage, motherhood, friendship, education, politics, romance and self-discovery mean that Journey to Paradise is a book of depth as well as entertainment. I thought it was a glorious read being captivating, emotionally satisfying and historically fascinating. I loved it.

About Paula Greenlees

Paula Greenlees has an undergraduate degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. She spent three years living in Singapore surrounded by the history and culture that provided the inspiration for her first novel, Journey to Paradise.

For further information follow Paula on Twitter @PGreenlees, find her on Facebook and Instagram of visit her website.

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