Enlightened twentieth century imperialism is how narrator
Peta Firth describes her posting to administrative work in
Burma. She lives in a version of 1984 in which the British
Empire is still going strong, though facing challenges.
BURMESE DAZE starts out mimicking a memoir style from
English writers and gradually introduces the discrepancies
with our own time line. George Orwell's novel BURMESE
DAYS seems to have been the inspiration as British
administration of the Asian country ended in 1948.
Without a respected family background, Peta fits in better
among traders and travellers. Her move to a mountain
district lands her among class-conscious English families,
keeping themselves apart from the villagers for the sake of
the Empire. Dacoits and guerrillas plague the trails and
Peta hears terms that today we'd consider insulting, but
she is instructed to get along with the locals or go home.
Just as today, rainforest timber sales both legal and
illegal make up the majority of the nation's trade.
Arresting an Englishman is Peta's job, but it ruins her
social standing. However one person, old friend and
district policeman John Corfield, is delighted. His
interests include destroying the opium-heroin trade.
Captain Henrietta de Carnac is an unconventional, well-bred
cavalry officer, sent to help retain order. Peta finally
makes a woman friend - when she can draw her attention from
I found the developing politics more interesting than the
stifling social set. Nationalists, socialists and anti-
racists make themselves heard with student radicals and
liberal lawyers in the crowd. Peta doesn't tell us about
the natural environment and wildlife, concentrating on
people and weather. Women have few options in life. I
wanted to know more about this timeline, and mystifying
hints about the Mexican uprising, similar to the Spanish
Civil War, plus the ongoing depression in England, made me
suspect that the author was enjoying herself very much.
Virginia Weir immerses us in the two-tier social life of
the British, but sadly backs off from anything resembling a
thriller. A relationship between two ladies is about as
shocking as it gets. The ending takes a turn for the wry,
without answering any of my many questions. Virginia Weir
was born at the British Military Hospital in Singapore but
spent much of her life in Scotland and England. BURMESE
DAZE is an entertaining confection for a different kind of
The year is 1984 and the British Empire is still intact.
Peta Firth, a bookish district officer in the remote Kyinwe
district of Burma, is bored and lonely and longs for
friendship and a meeting of minds. After a riot devastates
the town, Captain Henrietta de Carnac and her detachment of
cavalry troopers are sent to enforce civil order.
Peta is drawn to this mysteriously aloof figure, who causes
offence by commandeering the Government Secondary School
playing fields for her polo practice and by declining
invitations to dinner with the District Commissioner and his
wife. Sent to read the Riot Act by her superior, Peta is
given short shrift and temporarily finds herself on the side
of the Henrietta-haters.
Join Peta and Henrietta on their journey towards friendship
and understanding in a relationship that defies the rigid
class-bound strictures of colonial society, one that risks
everything for the promise of a brief period of happiness.