Patricia Morley’s book My Other Family, which came out late summer 1994, is like a
string of prayer beads or a necklace of cameos conjuring up, with an artist’s eye, one
scene after another that evokes memories of the colour, the movement and the richness of
cultures that was the very essence of Singapore after the war. It brings out so much that
those who were there at the time must have been aware of, but which most people could
not portray with her unerring touch.
She was concentrating on drawing the human form at that time: she thought her painting
needed this. In her book you can see how brilliantly she succeeded. The illustrations are
of her models, her ‘other family’ and their friends. They add something special to the
book but the written words also enhance the drawings, for Patricia has the gift of drawing
with words as well as with her artist’s tools. This book should be appreciated particularly by anybody with memories of Malaya and Singapore. That
is not to infer that only those who were in the Far East will appreciate the work. It is a very
personal story to which those of us who, like myself, were there at the time and knew not
only the Morleys but their other family as well, can testify to the veracity of the whole. It
is the very personal detail with which the story is told that should delight any reader. For
any student of history, it is a reliable contribution and it gives a valuable insight into the
true feelings of friendship which often blossomed between the local people and the
Colonial administrators and their families. The children, whether Chinese, European,
Indian or Malay, playing together without any hesitation and learning a true acceptance of
a multi-cultured society.
The racial mix in Singapore is graphically portrayed in this delightful book, where
understanding of the Malay people in particular is evident throughout. The domestic
Malayan scene is depicted with none of the false sentimentality which time and distance
might have produced. If the artist/author paints one piece of a large jigsaw more than
another, that piece at least bears the signature of a keen and talented observer with an eye
for detail and the ability to treat her subjects with affection.
The book deserves to be widely read and will, assuredly, be widely enjoyed.