Susan Barker (one of our writers)
July 2014
Transworld Digital

About the publication

Malaya 1951, a jungle resettlement camp: young colonial adventurer Christopher Milnar falls passionately in love with a Chinese nurse Evangeline - a fierce flame that ends in tragedy when their camp is attacked by Communist guerrillas and Christopher is violently beaten up.


Dark themes of colonial misconduct, racial prejudice, and doomed love resonate throughout this novel, yet it is infused with characteristic humor and warmth. It opens in Malaysia during the 1950s Communist insurrection when a young Englishman, Christopher, falls in love with a Chinese girl. The book then moves to 1969 where Frances, Christopher's Eurasian teenage daughter, is seduced by a Chinese teacher twice her age and drawn into the Malay-Chinese race riots in Kuala Lumpur. The final part of the book travels to 1990s London: Frances' two mixed-race children live with their grandfather on a council estate, and embark on a quest to discover the truth behind their mother's death.

From the Publisher

Susan Barker is a remarkable young novelist whose literary ambition and storytelling talent combine to make her books a rare treat. Her latest novel, set during the Communist invasion of 1950s Malaysia features doomed love set against a backdrop of tragic colonial conflict. Her main characters also come back as ghosts, visceral and grotesque and somehow desperately funny. This novel will bring tears to your eyes, not only for its high emotions, but also for its soaring prose. She has an incredible gift for understanding human nature, made all the more remarkable by her youth.

From the Inside Flap

The sound of mocking laughter echoes round Christopher Milnar’s head. Half a century ago, he was posted to a Chinese resettlement camp in the Malayan jungle called the Village of Everlasting Peace. Now the ghosts of that time – Charles Dulwich, who was driven to suicide, and Mrs Ho, torched by Red insurgents – visit him daily in his East London tower block, taunting him and triggering vivid memories of his younger days as a colonial adventurer.

Surrounded by poverty and squalor, terrorized by Communist guerrillas, Christopher fell passionately in love with Chinese nurse Evangeline, only to be betrayed, beaten, and left for dead. Nonetheless, Christopher has gone on loving her into his old age. But neither the ghost of Evangeline nor the other woman he yearns for, his dead daughter, Frances, has ever returned to visit him. Until Adam, his grandson, embarks on a quest to piece together the fragments of a family torn apart.

Susan Barker’s second novel resonates with dark themes of colonial misconduct, racial prejudice and doomed love. From present-day London to the heart of the Malayan jungle, to post-colonial Kuala Lumpur and back to London, The Orientalist and the Ghost is an epic portrayal of human frailty and the hazardous dictates of the heart.

From the Back Cover

Malaya, 1951. Christopher Milnar falls passionately in love with Chinese nurse Evangeline in a jungle resettlement camp – an affair that ends in tragedy when, under attack from Communist guerrillas, he is betrayed, beaten and left for dead.
Half a century later the ghosts of that time return to haunt him, triggering vivid memories of colonial misconduct and lost love. Forced to confront his past, Christopher agonises over the fate of Evangeline, and the mysterious disappearance of his teenage daughter Frances in Kuala Lumpur, 1969. Until his grandson Adam embarks on a quest to piece together the fragments of a family torn apart. 
Moving from present day London to the heart of the Malayan jungle, The Orientalist and The Ghost is an epic tale of human frailty and the ghosts that haunt a family from one generation to the next. 
Praise for SAYONARA BAR:
'Highly original ...

About the Author

Susan Barker was born in London in 1978 to a Chinese Malaysian mother and an English father. Aged twenty-five, she completed the acclaimed novel Sayonara Bar (‘Funny, crisply written and engaging’ Times), followed by The Orientalist and the Ghost (‘Sharp and original’ Guardian). While writing her third novel The Incarnations she spent several years living in Beijing, researching modern and ancient China. She is currently based in Shenzhen, China.


"Barker is a sharp and original writer. I greatly envied both her ruthlessness and her tender, acute observations of these characters"