Customer Reviews


90 Reviews
5 star:
 (44)
4 star:
 (24)
3 star:
 (14)
2 star:
 (7)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly brilliant
For once you have to agree with the comments on the cover. This is indeed a stunning first novel; so original and cleverly written. Here is a new type of ghost story, one written from many perspectives...I lost count of the number of narrators - not that detracts from the story. It is truly hard to describe this book as it is unlike any I have read before. Yes, there are...
Published on 31 May 2009 by Claptonite

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but odd tale of an expat family in Hong Kong
This is an odd book that defies categorisation. It begins well enough during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, but apart from strong initial scene setting - I very much enjoyed the descriptions of Hong Kong and the different locales - becomes a tale of an English family that could have taken place absolutely anywhere. In fact, as soon as the action shifts away from...
Published on 18 July 2010 by Parvati P.


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly brilliant, 31 May 2009
By 
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For once you have to agree with the comments on the cover. This is indeed a stunning first novel; so original and cleverly written. Here is a new type of ghost story, one written from many perspectives...I lost count of the number of narrators - not that detracts from the story. It is truly hard to describe this book as it is unlike any I have read before. Yes, there are elements of "Lovely Bones" and "Poison wood Bible" but don't be lulled into thinking it is in either of those genres.

The story, which ranges over 6 decades has pace and detail in abundance and the emotions ebb and flow. The descriptions of colonial Hong Kong and the interactions between the British rulers and the various the locals is stark. Ultimately the story reaches a climax that is both sad and satisfying.

There is just one element to this book that worries me - there are many characters (both living and dead) portrayed here and, to be honest, there's not a sympathetic one amongst them. I like novels where you can at least identify with someone along the way - here ALL the characters are unlikeable. Maybe something that Anne Berry needs to think about for future work. A great first effort though.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and very unusual, 19 Jun 2009
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
The Hungry Ghosts in the title of this debut novel are part of Hong Kong culture.

In Hong Kong, the Hungry Ghost Festival is a major Buddhist and Taoist event. Hungry ghosts are the restless spirits of people who did not have a funeral. There is no one visiting their graves and they do not receive the gifts that Chinese people would take to their ancestors to pay respects. They miss out on food and spirit money.

To stop the ghosts causing problems for the living, many communities provide them with food to appease them. The ghosts feed first but the food does not disappear. Then the living eat the offerings and pray for good luck.

Every year the Chinese people believe that the gate of hell will open and ghosts are allowed to roam the earth during the lunar month. During July / August , Hungry Ghost festival or "Yue Lan" takes place in many areas in Hong Kong. In each area, it lasts three days.

The novel opens in Japan occupied Hong Kong in 1942 when a young girl is raped and murdered by a Japanese soldier - her body is pushed over a cliff and never found - she then becomes a Hungry Ghost and for many years she hovers around a morgue before finding her `host' - Alice, the daughter of a British Government official. Alice is something of a lost soul too - her Mother has never loved or cared for her, her two older sisters are more interested in their social lives and her brother more interested in food.

Alice is accompanied by Ghost throughout her life - as she struggles with school and family relationships, as she watches the break-down of her parent's marriage and eventually when she flees the island to live in England.

Along the way - Ghost is joined by other demons from Alice's.

Each chapter of the story is narrated by a different character including Alice's parents, siblings and Ghost. Often each character will tell of the same event but with their own take on it.

The Hungry Ghosts is more a story of dysfunctional family life and the effects of certain behavior on a whole family. At times, I felt a little overwhelmed by the different characters but at other times I was almost moved to tears by the description of mental illness, trauma and life in general.

This is a very well written book and is extremely hard to catergorise. I found it a very compelling read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stangely moving, 15 April 2011
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Paperback)
I'm really not the type to write reviews, even though I purchase most of my books through amazon and read one or two books a week, but I feel compelled to to state how moved I was by this book and how much sympathy and empathy I have for the character Alice (not that I have a Chinese girl, dead dog and headless budgie following me around!!)Just someone who has never quite fitted in. A beautiful story that will stay with me for a long long time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but odd tale of an expat family in Hong Kong, 18 July 2010
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
This is an odd book that defies categorisation. It begins well enough during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, but apart from strong initial scene setting - I very much enjoyed the descriptions of Hong Kong and the different locales - becomes a tale of an English family that could have taken place absolutely anywhere. In fact, as soon as the action shifts away from Hong Kong the book becomes quite dull. The Safford family members are not supposed to be particularly likeable individuals, but I found it difficult to remain interested in them and their dysfunctionality. The constantly shifting points of view did not help at all and I would say contributed to my inability to identify with any of them. The main character Alice was very odd, and not just because of the ghosts that haunt her. It is difficult to understand what she wants or what motivates her.
Much has already been said about the ghosts. I was willing to suspend disbelief and went along with the main ghost, finding her believable, but the appearance of the other ghosts in quick succession was, I felt, stretching the device too far. The ghostly ménage follows Alice about like a bunch of broken down toys in a Disney movie (Toy Story?) and are a distraction.
Although this is certainly a well-written and imaginative book, its main strength was its portrayal of expatriate life in Hong Kong during a particular era. I did not care about Alice or her predicament, or whether or not she can overcome her demons (ie ghosts) and I cared still less about the rest of her bizarre family.
Three stars overall, although the quality of the writing deserves four.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting, provocative story., 24 Mar 2009
By 
laineyf "widnes" (warwickshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What a book this is!! It is a dark tale of lives entwining, crossing over the barrier of death and merging with the living. It tells of a British family in Hong Kong living the high life - the father is a government official, and their lives are a round of parties, dinners, social niceties, and days on their boat. The Safford family seem to have it all, Father Ralph is a handsome, well-liked and well-respected public figure. His wife, Myrtle, is the ultimate trophy wife, floating around all day in silks and satins, being waited on hand and foot, and producing the requisite perfect family, children Jillian, Nicola, Harry, and Alice. However, behind the perfect facade, the Saffords are a truly dysfunctional family. There is so much jealousy, animosity, lying, cheating, and utter contempt for others hidden away, just waiting to burst out. Alice is the trigger, and the whole story centres around her. Lin Sui is a chinese girl who is brutally raped and murdered by a soldier, and who refuses to let go of 'life'. She needs a host body, and finds Alice. Between them, they cause chaos and confusion, and ultimately, everything erupts, splitting the Saffords wide apart. The repercussions of Lin Shui's occupation of Alice are far-reaching, and we travel through the handover of Hong Kong back to the Chinese, seeing the lives of the Saffords' disintegrate, and watching Lin Shui's power over Alice. The denouement, when it comes, is unsettling to say the least.
Ultimately, the question becomes not whether Lin Shui needs Alice, but whether Alice needs Lin Shui.
I found this book to be thoroughly absorbing, loved the descriptive powers of the author, and found that I could actually 'see' the colours that she described, her writing was so good. It is a well-written, well-researched, well-presented book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it whole-heartedly. A triumph.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hungry for More, 23 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hungry Ghosts is a fantastic gothic tale with an exotic twist. For those expecting this novel to read like a J horror film of maurauding and sinister spirits dooming the living then those readers may be disappointed but for anyone else interested in a gorgeously depicted, languid and disturbing novel about a twelve year old who is possessed by the Hungry Ghost of the title, who was herself a rape and murder victim, then they don't come much better than this debut novel.

Comparisons to Lovely Bones are valid and do not over exaggerate, as this is a very lyrical and absorbing tale with multiple narrators that spans several countries and six decades. The plot can meander in places, the time periods can be confusing as it jumps back and forth and it can at times become murky with multiple narrators but if you have the patience to stick with it then you will be rewarded with a novel that stays with you long after the final page. Personally although some of the characters were it's fair to say unlikeable what stuck with me was the portrayal of the rich and varied Chinese culture.

I would recommed for any patient reader who values substance and freshness over cheap thrills.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, imaginitive and incredibly well written, 16 Oct 2010
By 
Jo Bennie (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Paperback)
The extraordinary story of two girls, Alice, youngest daughter of a member of the colonial Hong Kong British government and the wife who only wanted to provide her husband with her son, and the girl who haunts her, the ghost of Lin Shui, a young virgin raped and murdered by a Japanese occupying solider during World War II 20 years earlier. Alice is a ghost to her own family, unwanted by her mother, adored by her father, largely absent and unable to protect her from the increasing hostilities of her sisters and mother, and held accountable for the action of Lin who is drawn to Alice's life force and loneliness and moves and destroys objects around her as a misplaced act of affection. As colonial rule in Hong Kong is rent asunder by civil unrest and Alice and her family are exiled to England, a country that has never been home to them, Alice's entourage is swollen by further restless spirits. Berry handles the entire narrative beautifully, even Alice's monstrous mother is comprehendable in her own pain and reasons for the mental and physical torture she deals out to Alice, an amazing book of aching sadness.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original story, couldn't put it down!, 27 Mar 2009
By 
Free Spirit "shilo115" (North Wales, GB) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is such an original piece of work, I am not sure how to describe it. It is a ghost story but then again, it isn't a ghost story.

This is a story about a family growing up in Hong Kong during British rule. It is a story of how parents relate to their children and how they can have a profound affect on their lives without even realising it.

Each chapter is narrated by a member of the family or the "Ghost" herself and provides a compelling read. I liked reading about life in Hong Kong, about the traditions and the culture as well as the story itself. The only thing I was disappointed about was that fact that the main character herself "Alice" did not have any narrative and I would have like that, it would have given me a better understanding of her character.

Each page was an adventure and right the way through the book I found myself surprised at the twists and turns.

Anne Berry's writing was a joy, lyrical and flowing a wonderful debut novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated and downbeat with flat characters, 15 Jun 2010
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
I really wanted to like this book. It had all the right ingredients - good reviews with comparisons to Kate Atkinson and Alice Sebold, interesting setting, a bit of fantasy mixed with reality. Maybe my expectations were too high. Whatever the reason, I really struggled to enjoy this story and am a bit bemused by the glowing reviews it's had. It isn't badly written - though I'd not go as far as to say it's well written either. The first chapter, which depicts a brutal and shocking crime in tough, unsentimental and startling prose, is the best in terms of literary merit.

The best way to describe the 'genre' is a family-saga-meets-ghost-story. The point of view switches from one character to the other, though in separate chapters. The action spans the the years from World War II up until the 2000s, though there are some pretty big gaps in between. This tends to throw the pacing. The characters are not very believeable - the family are charicateurishly nasty, in a hollow way. I couldn't really understand the motivations of any of them or comprehend their behaviour. Even the 'heroine', the much-haunted Alice, is a rather empty character. You want to feel sorry for her, but everything is just too unrealistic for the reader to really empathise, and because Alice is never given any narration from her own point of view - only that of her chief ghostly companion - the reader never gets in touch with her feelings.

The story ploughs on in a way that is disappointing. Every big event is flat and anticlimactic. Once Alice was haunted I expected the pace to pick up, but it didn't. Everything just limped on. There's a rather stupid Deus ex Machina in the latter part of the middle, which jarred, and then the story jumps on its gappy disjointed way. It was really unsatisfying, nothing was explained and nothing rang true. I felt frustrated that what was a good concept was played out in a way that was so mediocre. But all of that apart, the thing I really disliked about this book was its tone. It was so unrelentingly miserable and heavy going. It's hard to like a book that makes you feel depressed and uncomfortable reading it.

I'm in two minds about whether I'd give another book by the author a go. This is her first novel, so some allowances should be made. And she's not a terrible writer - clearly a lot of readers have loved this novel - and I think my dislike of this novel is more about the book itself than the writer. So I wouldn't warn people off entirely, but readers should exercise a little caution. Also there are some graphic scenes of abortion in this story so anyone who is very upset or offended by such material might be best off avoiding it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Took me by surprise..., 29 April 2009
By 
Cee-Gee (Northants, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Hungry Ghosts (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought the idea of parasitic, hungry ghosts unleashing chaos was really interesting, but I wasn't expecting great things from a ghost story. I was really taken by surprise, because the more I read, the more I was hooked!

For me, Mrs Safford was the star of this show. She hates her youngest daughter, Alice - the haunted one, and is utterly hostile to her throughout, jealous of the loving relationship between her and her father. This was what really kept me turning pages.

I liked the ghosts too (although I thought the later ghosts that attached themselves to Alice were a bit ridiculous). The ghost of the murdered Lin Shui was very well written. She was determined not to cross over to the other side and be with her ancestors and clings to Alice desperately. Her struggle to reconcile herself with her death was really engrossing.

Definitely one to read!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xb6a08588)

This product

The Hungry Ghosts
The Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry (Paperback - 18 Mar 2010)
6.39
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews