Today is my stop on the blog tour for Have You Eaten Rice Today? by Apple Gidley. I am excited to be sharing an excerpt post with you all, so you can get a little taste for the book!
A massive thank you to @LoveBooksTours for allowing me to be a part of the tour.
The Emergency rumbles through the jungle, the kampongs, and towns as the communist uprising in 1950’s Malaya adds poignancy to the salutation, ‘have you eaten rice today?’ when hunger drives some terrorists to surrender.
Simon Frampton returns to Malaya as a rubber planter after failing to settle into civilian life in England after the War. His knowledge of the jungle is again put to use when a war-time covert force is reformed and renamed, Ferret Force, made up of Malays, Chinese and Europeans.
Dee Cunningham, an Australian nurse longing to escape the confines of Townsville, Queensland, joins the British Red Cross to help set up and run rural clinics in Malaya.
The violence of guerrilla warfare becomes the backdrop to their love story, but miscommunication leads to sadness. It is not until sixty years later, when Simon’s grandson Max comes to stay at his Dorset farm, when he finds a box filled with envelopes with Australian stamps, and the truth comes to light.
Have You Eaten Rice Today? is a poignant exploration of Malaya’s violent history, merdeka, and how love is found in unexpected places.
A persistent buzzing brought Simon Frampton from the depths of sleep, rarely dreamless, and always jungle green. Dawn trickled through half-opened louvres and with it came mosquitoes. The little buggers could get through the most tightly tucked net, though closer inspection showed a number of tears in this particular one. A four-blade fan turned idly, shifting the once-white netting in a mesmerizing, grubby blur. Remnants of torn posters fluttered on otherwise bare, paint-peeling walls and gave glimpses of lurid scenes from Hindi-language films.
A speck of blood showed Simon had murdered one irritant and, rolling to the side of the low, slatted bed, he pushed his way out of the cocoon and padded, naked, to the window. Angling the louvres, he stood to the side and looked out over the corrugated iron lean-to at the back of the shophouse where Ah Tok had hidden his bicycle last night.
Ipoh, the capital of Perak, was slowly waking. Overnight rain made the streets sparkle in the watery morning glow and humidity would soon swamp the cool dawn air. The smell of coffee beans roasted in palm-oil margarine drifted up from kitchens, and he could hear mothers and grandmothers haranguing children, Mandarin and Malay filling the air. A hawker slip-slopped along the back street to market, a thin bamboo pole balanced across his shoulders with a basket at each end swaying in syncopated rhythm with his steps.
Simon looked around the room again. He hadn’t stayed here before. Not quite the Club, but the sheets were clean and with Ah Tok on the ground floor and an escape route out the window onto the lean-to roof, Simon had been able to grab a few hours kip.
Three soft taps on the door, then a pause followed by a single rap, gave Simon time to tie a sarong around his waist. The old signal. Some things were never forgotten. He turned to face a plump, bald Chinaman sidling into the room with a cup of sweet steaming char, clean clothes draped over his arm.
“You are refreshed, tuan?” he asked in Malay, hurrying on before Simon could reply. “Drink. Then you go.”
About The Author:
“I left England a month after my birth when my Australian mum and I joined my British dad in Nigeria. That first plane trip is not something I recall although I have vivid snapshots of events of my early life there.
Educated at NEGS, Armidale, NSW for seven years, my ties to Australia are strong, with holidays spent both at home – wherever that happened to be – and with family and friends Down Under.
A peripatetic life allows me to draw on customs and cultures from many of the countries I’ve called home. Places as diverse as Papua New Guinea and The Netherlands, Trinidad & Tobago and Malaysia and eight others in between. A sliver of my heart has been left in each place lived as people met and events, good or bad, from celebrations to coups d’etats, have become woven into my memories.
My roles have been equally diverse – magazine editor, intercultural trainer, British Honorary Consul in Equatorial Guinea, to mention a few. And now writer.
I am thrilled my next book, Have You Eaten Rice Today? was published by Vine Leaves Press in September 2022.”
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