Riding a trolley bus through Singapore's crowded Chinatown, ten-year-old Howard and his mother find themselves in the midst of a communist riot. As Howard watches, a British policeman is wounded by the mob. But Howard finds that, instead of horror he feels satisfaction. It is 1927 and in a Singapore still under British colonial rule, opportunities open to local people are few. On the bus with Howard is a young Chinese girl whose fears and frustrations are of a different kind. Born into a wealthy Chinese dynasty, with a grandmother still suffering from bound feet, Mei Lan faces a life of feminine submission if she is unable to break free. In the years to come, the pair will be drawn together, but when war arrives, followed by the brutal Japanese occupation, their sense of self will be thrown into question, and their relationship tested to breaking point.
In a novel of breathtaking scope, Meira Chand tells the story of three families caught up in the tumultuous history of Singapore, as it journeys along the long, hard path to independence. From the opportunist Raj Sherma, an Indian immigrant made good, to the young Communist Greta, fighting the imperialists in the 1950s, and from the mixed loyalties of the Eurasian and Chinese communities to the sufferings of British prisoners of war, A Different Sky paints a vivid panorama of Singapore society through the personal struggles and victories of characters the reader will find it hard to forget.