Spotlight on: The Straits Quartet by Dawn Farnham.

The Red ThreadThis week, iBooks will be highlighting The Red Thread by Dawn Farnham – the first in the series of “The Straits Quartet” that Monsoon is proud to publish. The book will be offered for free download from iBooks, with the second instalment, The Shallow Seas, at half price.

The books were originally published in 2007, and this year, Monsoon has created a beautiful limited edition boxset with new book jacket designs to entice new readers to this evocative series.

Over the week we will be speaking with the author, Dawn Farnham, but we felt that first, the publisher, Phil Tatham, should let us know why he loves the books so much.

  1. What drew you to the books?

    I like publishing historical fiction as it serves as a form of social history. Readers learn about a location and how people lived during a particular historical period, while enjoying a good story.

  2. Was there something specific that you liked?

    I lived in Singapore for almost 20 years and I know the history of the country well, but when you read Dawn’s quartet you really feel the history. Streets in the colonial district and Chinatown, which I walked down every day in Singapore, were brought to life in her books. I could picture the indentured coolies lugging great sacks of spices to the godowns on the banks of the Singapore River, I could see George Coleman, Singapore’s pioneer colonial architect, taking measurements for the island’s first Parliament House. I could hear the hymns being sung by the small but noteworthy Armenian community in the Armenian Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator, and I could feel the loneliness of the first male settlers in Singapore, whether colonial administrators from Britain or Chinese labourers, all far from home and without many womenfolk with whom to share their new lives.

  3. What was the plan behind the book jackets – what did you want the reader to see?

    Singapore is famous for its shophouses, a style of terraced multi-use vernacular building with narrow street frontages and deep rears which are connected by ‘five-foot ways’, covered walkways offering shade and protection from the rain. We thought it would be fun to design all four covers as shopfronts, with a different person from 19th-century Singapore looking out of a window on each cover. We have a colonial official, a young European lady, a Chinese labourer and a wealthy Straits Chinese lady. When shelved cover out in the bookstores, the four covers join to form a line of terraced shophouses. We also have a limited edition box set with the two box designs featuring two jacket designs on each and it is therefore possible to arrange the box sets horizontally and/or vertically to form new building patterns.

  4. What has been the feedback on the books by your readers?
    The books have been very well received by female readers of historical romance and by male and female readers interested in historical fiction in general and Singapore history in particular. I recall being accosted at a book fair in Singapore by readers demanding to know when the forth and final volume of the quartet would be published as they were desperate to learn the fate of the protagonist Charlotte. After the quartet’s initial success in Singapore in print it is encouraging to see the ebook editions doing so well globally.

    Have you read the book already? Let us know what you think by leaving a review here or by using #theredthread on Twitter.