I read two books for Hong Kong…and I while I didn’t intend to have a narrow focus, both were about a world that doesn’t exist anymore: British Hong Kong.
I really enjoyed the deeper dive in, though. I had the luck of encountering two authors who, while very different in many ways, created an almost magical sense of place.
The first book was Love in A Fallen City by Eileen Chang. I maybe cheated a bit with this one – the setting was just as often Shanghai as it was Hong Kong, but the title alone clinched the deal for me…I had to read it right away. As is often the case, fiction follows fact; Ms. Chang was originally from the mainland city, and emigrated to Hong Kong.
A collection of four novellas, this is writing at its best. Sharp-tongued and smart, melancholy without being sentimental – there were times my heart hurt with the beauty of the phrasing. It’s easy to understand why the author is a literary giant in Taiwan and China.
“Basically a woman who was tricked by a man deserved to die, while a woman who tricked a man was a whore. If a woman tried to trick a man but failed then was tricked by him, that was whoredom twice over. Kill her, and you’d only dirty the knife.” ~ Love in a Fallen City
My second book was Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth. Memoirs are not usually my literary jam: I often feel like I’m trapped with someone who, in the end, I really didn’t need to get to know…
But fortunately, that’s not the case here: I really, really enjoyed this book. The author got to experience Hong Kong as a free-range kid, and was there at just the right age, when a quick, sensitive young mind can truly be open to a fascinating place.
I know I should dig into modern Hong Kong, but I so enjoyed my journey into its 20th century history.
And here’s some mood music that I listened to while reading. Check out Bai Guang, if you aren’t already familiar…