A Frenchwoman travels to Southeast Asia to serve as a doctor in a primitive clinic during the 1920s.
This historical novel opens as Dr. Andrea Monin and Lt. Roland Garnier disembark from a ship docked in Djibouti in East Africa. Andrea wants to visit the cemetery where her father is buried, and the young lieutenant insists on accompanying her in order to protect her. It is not long before they find the grave marker for Dr. Andre Frederic Monin, who died seven years earlier. The story then flashes back to show Andrea leaving France. She has abandoned her cheating husband and a disappointing medical career. As a woman practicing medicine in Lyon during the ’20s, she had been called on to treat sick pets rather than humans with ailments. She thus decided to follow in her father’s footsteps, traveling to Asia in hopes of practicing “real medicine” and contributing to a community in need. When she arrives at her final destination of Saigon, she is met by Dr. Poulaine, a colonel in the French army and the man with whom her father had worked before he died. Andrea hopes to take her father’s place at Poulaine’s government hospital, but to her consternation, her status as a “lady doctor” continues to stand in her way. She must not only earn the respect of the local patients, but also deal with the political and social unrest that permeate her new home. As the fast-paced story unfolds, it becomes increasingly questionable whether Andrea will ever find her place in Saigon. In brisk, accessible prose, Singley (Hook Up, 2014, etc.) describes a country ravaged by political unrest, French occupation, and political corruption. The intricate tale requires a certain amount of background knowledge about the region or it could become confusing. But the interpersonal conundrums of the characters are sufficiently engrossing to keep readers engaged. As the chaos in the story mounts and Andrea struggles to find her footing, Singley provides rich details about Vietnam, the French government, and the tensions between these two countries in the early 20th century.
A high-energy, action-packed tale about feminism, injustice, and the struggle for sovereignty.