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Handsome, clever, if not yet rich, Philip Clarke finds himself drawn by the cool beauty of Mei Li, lawyer and colleague, yet at the same time is unable to relinquish his weekly visit to the near-by shanty-town and the waiting arms of the fishing village woman who offers exquisite and unexpected pleasure. His simple ambition is to continue to enjoy the heady gratifications of both, without undue self-reflection. But paradise comes at a cost. And, just as the stories of love and the fulfillment of desire he tells himself become complicated, the tranquility of his island home is, he slowly understands, anything but immune to the world beyond its borders.

The book set in present day Asia, but its reach is much wider than that. The double context of the book is the newly assertive China on the global stage, and the environmental catastrophe that is engulfing the region. The story is premised on a deal to sell bottled water to China from Australia; the central character is a member of the Hong Kong firm that brokers that deal. He is a British expat, something of an innocent abroad, and does not understand until very late in the piece that he is being set up as a patsy in a corrupt and potentially lethal scam between the Australian based exporters and the Chinese distributors. The novel follows his life, loves, and many misunderstandings through the first half of 2015, to the point when, for the first time, there was a vote on democratic reform in Hong Kong.

I attach a synopsis; in essence, it follows the perceptions and failures of the lead character, and in the way that, belatedly, he realises that behind the commonplaces of the everyday he has been witness to a crime, and that as a result is in real danger. And although set in the greater Chinese region, his world, it turns out, is not unlike ours, as it is one where expediency trumps principle, where the outcomes of global migration are uncertain, and the possibilities of love as intoxicating as they are troubled.


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