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Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood Paperback – 1 Aug 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st Paperback Printing edition (1 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553816721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553816723
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A classic memoir... the voice of the youthful narrator carries the reader on in a wonderfully honest tone... Booth has delivered a pre-coming-of-age book that ranks with the best of the breed. The writing is superb... it is a more than worth legacy to his prolific literary life, but also stands as one of the most original and engaging memoirs of recent years, all the more telling because it is so personal, witty and true" (The Times)

"Admirably evocative... one longs to learn what happened next; but, alas, we never will" (The Sunday Times)

"It has such pace and power... his memoir is, above all, a celebration... the portrait of his parents... is particularly fine" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Highly evocative... as a sharp-eyed, sensitive child of a vanished Hong Kong, Booth earns his nostalgia... his family are not the only ones who will enjoy the book" (Daily Telegraph)

"His finest work. Full of local colour and packed with incident" (Evening Standard ‘Pick of the Year’)

Book Description

Evocative, funny and full of life - a beautifully written and observed childhood memoir of growing up in colonial Hong Kong shortly after World War 2.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Culley on 16 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
I need not add much to the very positive reviews already given to this book. Gweilo was one of Booth's last works before he sadly died of cancer. Those who are interested in Hong Kong history will find the descriptions of 1950's Hong Kong fascinating. As a constantly changing place, it is helpful to have a snapshot in time preserved through the memories of a young boy. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. Andrades on 7 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I know book reviews are subjective, and I don't usually bother but this book really moved me and kept me glued from cover to cover. It's such a descriptive memoir, and as I read it I was picturing the places in Hong Kong as he spoke of them. Like I said in the title, if you have a love for the place, then the chances are you will love this book. If you were an ex pat, in the same era then I would expect you'll love it even more. That's not to say you need to be a regular visitor to HK to enjoy this beautiful book, it just adds another dimension.

It's so descriptive, I found myself running Google Earth on my laptop as I read, and going into street view of the places he spoke of, obviously massively different nowadays in Hong Kong, but all the streets and places remain. I really can't recommend this book any higher.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By G. Fripp on 10 Aug. 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book with great interest. I also lived in Hong Kong as a child (and shared the same birthday as the author),and saw many similar scenes there myself. He seems to mention every special scene himself, from the Peak tram to the Star ferry,even Kowloon local areas. It is accurate,precise and local to the area.
If you want a read about this part of the world in some detail, you can do no better.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By frhout on 16 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
Hong Kong has been thoroughly written about over the decades, but I have known of no recent autobiographies, even if there have been, non is in print. This makes "Gweilo" stand out as one of its kind, it is a most engaging and loving memoir, socially rich in details as it relates the intercourse of different walks of life in Hong Kong, a far-fetched colony which Booth considers already ahead of the still-under-ration Britain in many ways. His description of the relationships between foreigners and the local people, as epitomised by his parents, his father's superiors, Amercian sailors, long-term lodgers in the hotels and their employees, shopkeepers, servants and ordinary locals, is acute, with observations worthy of a sociologist's.
Few expatriates have such a critical eye, even fewer expats' children are curious and courageous enough to learn the Cantonese dialect with some its excruciatingly rude foul words, to go to dai pai dongs (street restaurants) on his own, and to wander into places, like the Kowloon Walled City, where locals, and even armed policemen would not venture into and to witness the social ills among opium addicts, pimps and triad members. Many scenes described in the book belong to the not-too-distant past, yet many others remain the same to this day.
This book covers only three years of Booth's first bout in Hong Kong, from 1952 (when he was 7) to 1955. Instinctively, I feel the need for more, but Booth's untimely death in 2004 has deprived us of a sequel, when his family returned to Hong Kong for good four years after their initial departure. This is a magnificent book to read for anyone who cares for Hong Kong, Chinese and expatriates alike.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Koetzsch on 27 July 2006
Format: Paperback
In `Gweilo' Martin Booth describes his life in Hong Kong from 1952 to 1955. I loved roaming around with Booth through the streets of Kowloon and the Walled City - which I didn't visit until shortly before it was torn down - and the various bits of Hong Kong Island. A seven-year old would presumably never be allowed to roam around like this in Europe. But as Booth notes in the beginning in Hong Kong he was very much treated as an `adult in training', which I think puts a much fairer value on what is called `childhood'.

I loved the many anecdotes in the book including the one where Booth describes their hiking tour to Ngong Ping Monastery on Lantau Island and being awoken by the sound of castanets, which turned out to be a pair of clapping teeth (his father's).

The one ugly character in the book is indeed Booth's father. The guy has a rather large chip on his shoulder and he comes over like the big ugly Expat - Hong Kong has seen a few of those in its time. One shudders knowing that the guy came back in 1959 as a civil servant.

It is a pity that Booth's untimely death deprives us of a memoir of his second stay in Hong Kong, but I would not have been at all surprised if it would have been as marvelous as `Gweilo'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Owen on 26 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Martin Booth sailed to HK on the same ship as my family but 12 months before us. Like us, his father worked for the MOD but he was much more daring than us girls, judging by the stories he relates in this book. It has been fascinating being able to visualise the places he visits as well as hear the sounds and feel the humidity etc. If you are an ex-pat you will be there with him. If you are a 1940/50s child you will share his excitement but whatever age I hope you enjoy the thoughts and experiences of a young boy as seen through his 60 year old eyes imparting the tale of his childhood (not always happy) to his children. When I have finished it (only a few pages left) my sister is older going to read it before we return to Hong kong in January although I know from previous visits much from my past is no longer there but the happy memories will last forever.
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