Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood
By Martin Booth
(Thomas Dunne Books, Hardcover, 9780312348175, 352pp.)
Publication Date: November 29, 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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At seven years old, Martin Booth found himself with all of Hong Kong at his feet. His father was posted there in 1952, and this memoir is his telling of that youth, a time when he had access to the corners of a colony normally closed to a "Gweilo," a "pale fellow" like him.
His experiences were colorful and vast. Befriending rickshaw coolies and local stallholders, he learned Cantonese, sampled delicacies such as boiled water beetles and one-hundred-year-old eggs, and participated in vibrant festivals. He even entered the forbidden Kowloon Walled City, wandered into a secret lair of Triads, and visited an opium den.
From the plink-plonk man with his dancing monkey to the Queen of Kowloon (a crazed tramp who may have been a Romanov), Martin Booth saw it all---but his memoir illustrates the deeper challenges he faced in his warring parents: a broad-minded mother who embraced all things Chinese and a bigoted father who was enraged by his family's interest in "going native."
Martin Booth's compelling memoir, the last book he completed before dying, glows with infectious curiosity and humor and is an intimate representation of the now extinct time and place of his growing up.
Martin Booth wrote the nonfiction histories Cannabis and Opium and the novel Hiroshima Joe, among many other books. He began this memoir of his childhood after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2002 and died shortly after completing the manuscript in 2004. An internationally known, Booker Prize--shortlisted novelist and writer, Booth was considered an authority on everything from the history of Chinese organized crime syndicates to the conservation of the African rhino. Opium: A History is regarded as the definitive book on the subject, and he is the author of eight other works of nonfiction, eleven novels, and five works of children's fiction.
"Marvelously appealing memoir charts an enchanted few years of boyhood in post-war Hong Kong. Warm and vivid, bursting with life and energy, this is a valentine--but a clear-eyed one--to a particular place and time."--Kirkus (starred)
"One of the most original and engaging memoirs of recent years. Personal, witty, and true."--The Times (UK)
"Wonderful memoir...such pace and power."--Sunday Telegraph (UK)
"Highly evocative. As a sharp-eyed, sensitive child of a vanished Hong Kong, Booth earns his nostalgia."--The Daily Telegraph (UK)