The setting of colonial Sarawak Malaysia of the late 1930s is the turbulent and fertile ground that yields a classic tale of a love that will not be denied. The environment and social structures that are the framework of this narrative are displayed in all their aspects: the natural glory, innocence, and harshness of Southeast Asia as well as the shame, abuse, and idealism of European colonialism.
When cultures collide, there are (at least) sparks. And sparks there are between Selima and John - what a beautiful couple! Add to the mix a setting that could be the Garden of Eden, and you have a volatile brew!
This potent combination is not unique, however. Yet what it points out, in a very satisfying way, is that true and legitimate love does not necessarily have to follow the rigid rules of society, religion, or tradition. One of the truly wonderful aspects of a story such as this is that it reminds us (those of us with open minds) that there is more - much more - than is dreamt of in our provincial philosophies.
What are you defined by? Who do you love? And who decides - you or someone else?