Tour: The Lake Pagoda by Ann Bennett
Book Title: The Lake Pagoda
Author: Ann Bennett
Publication Date: 26th April 2022
Publisher: Andaman Press
Page Length: 310 Pages
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Indochina 1945: Arielle, who is half-French, half-Vietnamese, is working as a secretary for the French colonial government when the Japanese storm Hanoi. Although her Asian blood spares her from imprisonment, she is forced to work for the occupiers. The Viet Minh threaten to reveal dark secrets from her past if she won’t pass them information from her new masters.
Drawn ever deeper into the rebels’ dangerous world, will Arielle ever escape the torment of her past? Or will she find love amidst the turmoil of war?
A novel of love, loss, war, and survival against all odds.
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The Lake Pagoda - Extract from Chapter 3
Now, Arielle got dressed in the bathroom adjoining their bedroom and wandered down to the kitchen. The staff were all sitting round the table eating breakfast, as she walked down the passage she could hear their laughter and chatter echoing in the tall room. They put their forks and spoons down and hastily got to their feet as she entered, their chairs scraping on the tiled floor.
‘Please. Don’t get up,’ she said in Annamese.
There was a short silence during which they all stared at her.
‘Would madame like breakfast in the dining room?’ one of the maids asked, stepping forward. ‘What would you like? Croissants? Pains au raisins? Baguettes?’
‘Oh no. Some of that beef pho you’re all eating if you don’t mind,’ she smiled broadly at the group who looked back at her nervously. Two of the women were only a little older than herself she noticed. How she would love to have made friends with them, asked them to sit down with her and share her breakfast, but as she stood there, she realised that could never be. She was the mistress of the house and they were her servants and that gulf would always divide them.
With a sigh, she turned away and went into the dining room at the front of the house, where the ceiling fans whirred ceaselessly, high above the polished table. She sat alone, listening to the sounds of the city outside, the horns of the cars, bells of the cyclos, shouts of the pho sellers. Loneliness washed over her again, as it had when she’d entered this house as Etienne’s bride less than twenty-four hours before.
How she missed her schoolfriends, many of whom had already returned to France, going on to further education or secretarial school or even finishing school. Papa had insisted on Arielle attending the French Lycee in Hanoi, where the majority of the pupils were well-bred French girls, the daughters of wealthy businessmen or diplomats. There were only a smattering of girls with Annamese blood, and after leaving school the previous year, they had all either gone on to university or returned to their families in other parts of Indochina. They’d all left in dribs and drabs over the past few months, while Arielle’s attention had been consumed with Etienne and preparations for their wedding. And now she’d surfaced, she felt as though she’d been left behind.
She felt neither wholly in the French camp, nor the Annamese one. She sipped her noodle soup and thought about how little she knew of her native culture, even though she’d been brought up in the capital city of her homeland. She’d been raised as a French girl, even though she could speak the Annamese language fluently, but now she suddenly experienced a longing to understand her roots. Now she was here, in this quintessentially French mansion, the wife of a Frenchman, she was afraid of being cut off completely from her mother’s culture.
Ann Bennett was born in Pury End, a small village in Northamptonshire, UK and now lives in Surrey. Her first book, A Daughter's Quest, originally published as Bamboo Heart, was inspired by her father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma Railway. The Planter's Wife (originally Bamboo Island) a Daughter's Promise and The Homecoming, (formerly Bamboo Road), The Tea Planter's Club and The Amulet are also about the war in South East Asia, all six making up the Echoes of Empire Collection.
Ann is also author of The Runaway Sisters, The Orphan House, and The Child Without a Home, published by Bookouture.
The Lake Pavilion and The Lake Palace are both set in British India in the 1930s and 40s. Her latest book, The Lake Pagoda, set in French Indochina in the 30s and 40s, will be published in April 2022.
Ann is married with three grown up sons and a granddaughter and works as a lawyer. For more details please visit www.bambooheart.co.uk
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