Books set in Hong Kong

  

White Ghost Girls

From Paul Theroux to Jan Morris, famous authors from all walks of life have been fascinated by the vibrant city of Hong Kong and have chosen the island as the setting for their successful books. Here are the books that have best captured Hong Kong's in all its colorful and vibrant glory.

The first one to be mentioned is Jan Morris' book “Hong Kong” which was published back in 1997. The author explores Hong Kong's complex past, present and future in 1997, during the last days Hong Kong was under the British rule. In 1984, the British and Chinese governments signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration which stated that the sovereignty of Hong Kong should enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
One of the famous passages of the book reads as follows:
“It is more than a city actually, being an archipelago of some 235 rocks and islands attendant upon a squat mountainous peninsula. Humped or supine, silent in the haze, to the south and west the islands seem to lie bewitched along the dim blue coast of China, and to the north a line of mainland hills stands like a rampart - the hills of Kowloon, or Nine Dragons. With luck the sea, when the mist disperses, will be a tremendous emerald green, and if one looks with a sufficiently selective eye it is easy enough to imagine the place as it was when it first entered world history, 150 years ago.”
Another honorable mention is Alice Greenway's White Ghost Girls, published in 2006. This is a powerful and haunting novel of love and loss that was long-listed for the Orange Prize. The book tells the story of Frankie and Kate, two American sisters living in a foreign land in a chaotic time.
“Out in the harbor, at the end of summer, fishermen feed the hungry ghosts. They float paper boats shaped like junks and steamships. One is double-prowed like the cross-harbor Star Ferry which plies its way back and forth between Hong Kong (island) and Kowloon, never having to turn around. The fishermen load each tiny paper boat with some tea leaves, a drop of cooking oil, a spoonful of rice, a splash of petrol, before setting it afloat. Boats for the lost at sea, for the drowned. They hire musicians to clang cymbals. Children throw burning spirit money into the waves.”
An engrossing and detailed historical novel is The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee, published in 2009. The novel tells a love story set in Hong Kong in the 1940s and 1950s. A married woman is hired by a rich family to give piano lessons and ends up having a love affair with the driver who had a tragic love story of his own. The novel moves fluidly between one love story and the other. The character of Trudy was loosely based on American novelist and journalist Emily Hahn.
Here is an extract from the novel:
“To her surprise, she didn't detest Hong Kong, as her mother told her she would - she found the streets busy and distracting, so very different from Croydon, and filled with people and shops and goods she had never seen before. She liked to sample the local bakery goods, the pineapple buns, and yellow egg tarts, and sometimes wondered outside Central, where she would quickly find herself in unfamiliar surroundings, where she might be the only non-Chinese around. The fruit stalls were heaped with not only oranges and bananas, still luxuries in post-war England, but spiky, strange-looking fruits she came to try and like: starfruit, durian, lychee.”

 

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