Gweilo

Reading 001

by Martin Booth

A fun and charming memoir of a childhood spent in Hong Kong in the early 1950’s, this is like one grand adventure story! Martin was seven when his civil servant father was posted to work in Hong Kong and Japan during the Korean war. The voyage from England by way of Algiers and Egypt has his mother being sneezed upon and chased by an errant camel and it just gets better from there.

Martin is quite close to his mother and they share a love for all that is exotic and new in the Orient but his staid father insists on keeping to the proper British etiquette. The relationship between Martin and his father is distant and cold, mostly centered on corporal punishment meted out for minor infractions.

Martin has the run of the streets and encounters all sorts of characters and experiences. He and his mother live for a time in a run-down hotel with prostitutes and an odd recluse who once tries to assault him. Martin soon picks uph the Cantonese street dialect and makes good friends with porters and ricksha men. His meeting with one old homeless crone is particularly fascinating!

Martin was asked by his children to write down his stories after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. We are fortunate that he did so. He died in February 2004 just after the book was published.

A heartwarming and entertaining book!

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