TITLE: CALL OF THE KOEL
GENRE: Adult - Historical/Women's Fiction
Dear Ms Knight,
In 19th century Hong Kong, everything from flesh to secrets has a price.
Siu Lin is a concubine who knows never to expect love from her master. Helena is an English woman seeking a husband in order to escape her past. When betrayal and disaster throw Siu Lin onto the streets of Hong Kong, it's Helena who saves her life. Despite the constraints of race and class, a friendship is born from their shared interest in social reform. Together they work for change by safeguarding prostitutes and taking in orphans.
But both women are hiding secrets. When a plague sweeps Hong Kong, Helena takes custody of another family's son for his protection, and comes precariously close to revealing her connection with the boy. Meanwhile, Siu Lin learns that her own long-lost son has suffered at the hands of Helena’s abusive husband. Now the life of Helena’s family hangs in the balance, and the women discover just how far they are willing to go for the love of a child.
CALL OF THE KOEL, recently short-listed for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award (which honours unpublished works), is my first novel. At approximately 110,000 words, CALL OF THE KOEL is a stand-alone historical novel.
I’m an American by birth, but I was raised in British Hong Kong. I have a B.A. in English from Duke University, and I live in Singapore (where I was selected to participate in the 2013 Curtis Brown Creative Novel Writing Bootcamp, taught by Anna Davis and Jake Arnott).
Thank you for your time and consideration.
May 1866, Hong Kong
At last, and too soon, they arrived at the painted green door. Siu Lin leaned against a rough wooden post, her legs sponge and marrow from the walking that had begun the day before. Her younger brothers sat down by the side of the alley to wait.
"Don't make trouble." Baba's voice was soft, but he didn't stand for disobedience.
"Come, Siu Lin," Mama said. Siu Lin looked again at her brothers tracing lines in the dirt.
She followed her parents across the threshold. Inside, the damp earth floor, musty in the humidity, teased at the back of her throat. Baba murmured low to the woman they had walked so far to see.
An anxious current, choppy and fitful, rippled in her stomach and she drifted toward the open seas of despair. She shoved away thoughts of home and cast her nets, instead, on the strangeness of this place. A candle flickered and shadows danced over the walls. Two beds. A large wardrobe. What did the woman keep inside?
Baba was still speaking with the woman. The matchmaker amah. Finally, the woman nodded, brushed past Baba and came to stand in front of her.
Ah Yip. The name had haunted her for weeks. Now it had a face, round and expressionless like the barren moon.
"We cannot afford to keep her," Baba said in a hollow voice and looked to the floor.