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A Strand of Gold, by Elisabeth Conway

Singapore 1822: a place tainted by exploitation and dishonesty. This is the world into which Chin Ming disappears, powerless to discover what happened to her missing father and unable to deliver his letter to Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore.

This story begins beside the harbour in Guangzhou, where Chin Ming is plotting to board a junk. On the same ship is Wing Yee, a high-class courtesan, anticipating a brighter future. During the voyage they form a friendship, but when they reach Singapore, they become embroiled in the attitudes and values of the times. They are subjected to the very worst of human nature in a male-dominated world. The opportunities they dreamt of in Singapore are shattered when they are imprisoned, firstly by a Chinese merchant, and then by a devious European trader.

In Elisabeth Conway’s A Strand of Gold we experience a world where slavery is tolerated, gambling and prostitution are rife, and all of this is set against a background of Raffles’ idealism and East India Company bureaucracy.

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