Publication Date: February 22, 2024
Two women, nearly a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives when they reluctantly leave their homelands. Arriving in Singapore, they find romance in a tropical paradise, but also find they haven’t left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and haunted by the specter of terrorism, Aislinn Givens leaves her New York law practice and joins her husband in Southeast Asia when he takes a job there. Seeking to establish herself in a local law firm, Aislinn begins to understand the historic resentment of foreigners who have exploited the region for centuries. Learning about the turmoil of Singapore’s colonial period, she acquires several paintings by an English artist during World War I that she believes are a warning to her. The artist, Elizabeth Pennington, tells her own tumultuous story through diary entries that come to an end when the war reaches the colony with catastrophic results. In the present, Aislinn and her husband learn tragically that terrorism takes many shapes when they are ensnared by local political upheaval and corruption.
In a lyrical blend of historical and contemporary drama, The Last Bird of Paradise explores the consequences of power imbalances—both domestic and geopolitical—against a lush, tropical backdrop. Clifford Garstang, author of the award-winning novel Oliver’s Travels, once again draws on his decades of experience in Asia to tell an unforgettable story of romantic intrigue.
I really enjoyed this fascinating novel by Clifford Garstang, who brings his experience as an attorney in Singapore to enrich a story of two women, a century apart, living parallel lives, linked by artwork that appears to come alive. Part history, part romance, part corporate intrigue, The Last Bird of Paradise is well written and propulsive—I didn’t want to put it down! ~Daphne Kalotay, author of The Archivists
In evocative and authoritative prose, The Last Bird of Paradise, tells a compelling story of two women who travel to Singapore not of their own volition and a century apart. Garstang’s sympathetic imagination transports us in the manner of my favorite kind of fiction – that which convinces the reader of setting and character not because of the author’s resemblance to the protagonist but because the author is a virtuoso shapeshifter and spell weaver. ~Robin Hemley, author of Oblivion: An After Autobiography and Borderline Citizen: Dispatches from the Outskirts of Nationhood
Aislinn Givens leaves a settled life in Manhattan for an unsettled life in Singapore. But that’s only part of a story that tracks back and forth over the span of a century and keeps returning to a vibrant painting. That painting radiates mystery and longing. So does Clifford Garstang’s vivid and simmering novel, The Last Bird of Paradise. ~John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake and The Inverted Forest
A feast of a novel, Clifford Garstang’s The Last Bird of Paradise mesmerizes with its story of two expat women who find themselves relocated to Singapore because of the men in their lives. One woman is an artist, the other a lawyer. A century separates them. In stories historical and personal, Garstang weaves mystery, love, and explosive politics, rendering in high relief the uncanny ways in which women call to one another across time. ~Elaine Neil Orr, author of Swimming Between Worlds