Book Review: The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams

28 Feb

Book cover: The Eloquence of DesireGenre: Historical fiction

Publisher: Sparkling Books

Pub date:1 Jun 2010

Source: Publisher via

The Eloquence of Desire is a little difficult for me to review. It’s not that I didn’t like it or that it’s bad. On the contrary, it is well-written and has a great setting. My trouble is with the characters. I feel like shaking each of the main characters in the book, hoping they’ll get over themselves. Then I remind myself that this is set back in the times when people had fewer choices, unlike today.


Set in the 1950s this story explores conflicts in a family caused by an obsessive love. George is banished to Malaya as punishment for having an affair with the unmarried daughter of his boss. His wife, Dorothy, tries to put a good spin on this transfer by telling everyone that it is a promotion. She is devastated by her husband’s betrayal, but feels she can’t leave him because of societal norms. They send their 12-year-old daughter Susan to boarding school and go to Malaya. There, far way from home and friends, the relationship between George and Dorothy further deteriorates. When Susan comes for a visit, events explode, changing everything.


Real events in Malaya in the 1950s form the backdrop for events in the story, but the Eloquence of Desire is a story about marriage, family, disappointments and helpless despair.

George’s infidelity is hard for Dorothy to accept, but she is hurt more by his continuing passion for Emma (the boss’ daughter). George is almost panicky that he won’t be able to see the woman he loves for many years.

The book has a strong beginning, and I was sure that this stay far away from home, and everything that is familiar would be the best catalyst to shake off the cobwebs of the marriage. Not that I wanted everything to become peachy, but at least they would have to move out of status quo.

But all the character development after this point felt rather one note to me. Dorothy turns into a hermit and is still mulling if she should leave George. She gives up on life and lives in abject fear when her fellow countrymen and women there are enjoying themselves and live seemingly carefree lives.

George continues his philandering ways but still can’t stop pining for Emma. He tries to make up with Dorothy, but she understandably shuts him out.

When their daughter Susan visits, her enthusiasm for exploration is in sharp contrast with Dorothy’s fear and languor. Susan wants her adventure, but what she gets is rather more than she asks for.

The story has tantalizing hints about political movements and the lives of the local people. I felt more for the local populace and wanted to find out more about their struggles and happiness. The shenanigans of this family when seen in contrast against the real struggles and the real danger that the local people faced seems to lack perspective.


A good read. A starting point for anyone interested in the history of the region. The wrapping up of the story was a little too tidy for me.

Rating: 3.5*

I received this book as a reviewer for

*See my Rating policy

Do you agree with my review, or do you think I’m way off? Just want to say hi? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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