From the dust jacket:
Victor Purcell’s 18th year found him, on the outbreak of WW1, impatiently awaiting his summons to France. The rigours of campaigning and internment shed an idyllic light on his post-war student days at Cambridge, but did not appreciable dampen his enthusiasm for the unknown; 1921 saw his departure for another, far more remote destination: he had been appointed to the Malayan Civil Service as an Eastern Cadet.
The first thing he had to decide was, which of the local languages he would learn. Purcell did not hesitate: Chinese would open up for him one of the great civilizations of the world. He was somewhat startled to hear that this would “ruin” his career, but not discouraged. His studies took him to Canton and the Forbidden City of Peking. Then, attached to the Chinese Protectorate, he proceeded to a fascinating series of posts which took him al over the Peninsula.
From wartime bed-making “adopted by hospitals straight from the Spanish Inquisition” to the office of viewing prospective husbands for the inmates of a Malayan girls’ home, this collection of reminiscences flows across 30 years in a delightful mixture of description and comment, touching on places and personalities, history and custom, and the darker strands of international politics in a narrative at once entertaining and informative – a vivid and imperishable picture of that long-vanished time, the “serene and happy colonial period”.