An extraordinary family secret links a seemingly ordinary Australian family to an exotic plantation in Malaysia.
This story spans three generations of political upheaval and change in what was then known as Malaya. It is a beautifully told story of one family’s quest to find the truth about its past, how the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, deliberately suppressed, finally find their rightful place in the present. When a catalyst gives the impetus for Julie and her mother Caroline to search out the truth about an aunt, inexplicably ostracised from their family; they find not only answers, but also the missing pieces of their lives. What had previously been mere names on a family tree become, in reality, people who enrich their lives immeasurably.
Di Morrisey entices the reader into a world of age-old jungles, rubber and oil plantations set in the period of transition for Malaya from British colony to Independence. It encompasses the time from the waning days of British rule, through the horrors of the Japanese occupation, to the communist insurgency of the Emergency and the subsequent race riots. “The Plantation” is a moving, poignant story of a family that finds the truth to heal past injustices.
It is also a beautifully painted history of Malaya on its journey to multi-cultural Malaysia. The novel is an intriguing mystery that holds the reader and fascinates with its geographical breadth, stretching from the west coast of the main peninsula, all the way to the remote Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo. The journey encompasses the islands of Penang and Langkawi in the North, the central district of Cameron Highlands, Frasers Hill and Kuala Lumpur, to Singapore in the south and Kuching in the East.
The novel has a backdrop of a wealth of wildlife from colourful hornbills to the endangered orang-utans. It painfully reveals the effect of jungle-clearing on the fast disappearing lifestyle of the Iban people and the dwindling habitat of the orang-utans. It encompasses the complexities of running a plantation, rubber in the early days subsequently replaced by oil palms, and provides a balanced view of both sides of the palm oil debate. “The Plantation” is a novel that draws the reader deeper into a country usually better-known for its shopping malls, and runs its story concurrently with a more familiar setting in Australia. Both countries are linked by the divided sides of the same family.
It is a captivating read, intriguing and informative, touching and thought-provoking. All families have little secrets, inexplicable loose-ends tidied out of sight and mind, scapegoats unjustly tainted when they should be appreciated and celebrated. Di Morrisey sees the truth as necessary and life-enhancing. A much recommended read.