Mrs. Sinden, a story of love in a time of plague. Jessica Sinden, a reserved British woman who has lost one of her three children to suicide, unexpectedly falls in love. Love upends her, and even she is surprised by all the changes she feels in and around herself. But Jessica meets her American lover, Philip Nye, just as rumors begin to mount about some kind of new disease in China. The references to the disease, SARS, are at first offhand and casual, deepening in seriousness as the narrative proceeds, and the two of them wind up quarantined together on a high mountain, waiting for death. One dies.
Her husband, Edward Sinden, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases and perpetually immersed in his work has over the years become distant with Jessica. He is called to a hospital in a remote province in China, and while in China and under government surveillance, is asked to treat very sick patients. To his horror, he begins to realize that the disease is a deadly epidemic.
Mrs. Sinden is also a postcolonial love story. It deals with white expatriates in Hong Kong who are remnants of an increasingly marginal and irrelevant colonial culture. It is framed and underscored by larger political events, but it is essentially a deeply personal story of a middle-aged woman who unexpectedly discovers a real warmth in herself. The novel has a particular interest in its women characters.