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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful mémoire of a Hong Kong childhood
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...
Published on 16 Nov 2009 by Matthew Culley

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not his best
I have always enjoyed Booth's writing, and the period he writes about here is fascinating, and as always he picks out detail that seem to hold the imagination and evoke the picture, but this sometimes appears like 'Oedipus meest the cliched Hong Kong guide' with a bit of pidgin English thrown in
Published on 24 Oct 2007 by catholic reader


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful mémoire of a Hong Kong childhood, 16 Nov 2009
This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (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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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a hong kong childhood, 10 Aug 2004
By 
G. Fripp (bovey tracey, devon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hong Kong through the penetrating eyes of a GweiJay of 7, 16 Sep 2005
This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent book, 27 July 2006
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This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful portrait of a boy, his mother and the place they both loved, 3 Feb 2008
By 
Petrolhead (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (Paperback)
This delightful memoir is doubtless mainly of interest to people who know Hong Kong and want to know about, or remember, the very different Hong Kong that existed in the early 1950s. But it also stands on its own as a very touching piece of writing about childhood, a portrait of a feisty, loving mother, and an intimate gift by a man on his deathbed to his children. Martin Booth wrote this because he knew he was dying and because he was sad that his own father had never told him anything of his boyhood. In fact, after reading Gweilo, one's picture of Booth Sr is one of such a grotesque and narrow-minded philistine that it is hardly a surprise to hear he never sat down with his son and related the stories of his early life.

Gweilo is the story of the author's adventures in Hong Kong as a child, between the ages of seven and nine. It contains nothing about young Martin going to school, but describes instead his adventures and discoveries and the people and places he encountered, from coolie rickshaw drivers to the disturbed demobbed British officer Nagasaki Jim (presumably the model for Booth's 1985 novel Hiroshima Joe), with gangsters, cooks, colonials and lepers all thrown into the mix. Young Martin was an explorer and a curious child, but distinguished himself from the likes of his awful father by learning some Cantonese and seeing ordinary Chinese as real people rather than soul-less colonial subjects. Martin (and to some extent his mother) was open to trying almost anything new and always poking his nose into other people's business. The result is an often hilarious series of adventures, gathered into a rare and affectionate portrait of the lives of Hong Kongers of the time.

If you know the modern Hong Kong, it is intriguing to see just how much has changed, and how little. The place is physically unrecognisable, and sovereignty has passed from colonial Britain to Communist China. Beyond my laptop screen, the sun struggles to conquer a forest of skyscrapers and a mist of pollution. But Gweilo still rings many bells and the characters from the book still haunt Hong Kong, and at street level much remains the same.

It would be easy to carp that the author could not possibly have remembered all his young adventures in such detail, and to suspect that he embellished a few things, filled in gaps here and there and left out details he preferred to forget. But that would be mean-spirited, because this is the book he wanted to leave to his children to tell them of his early life, so although he has recreated a lost world, it must be as true as he could make it. This heartfelt tribute to old Hong Kong is his legacy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revived memories of a Gweilo, 21 Nov 2009
By 
J. Legge (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (Paperback)
Having spent 3 years in Hong Kong in the early 80's it brought back so many memories granted lots had changed but so much had not. Kowloon Walled City the open sewers, the electric cables winding from building to building. The ferries to Lantau, Chung Chau and Lamma. My youngest son was blonde and the same age as Martin would have been.He was always having his hair touched but neither he nor us felt imtimidated. My wife leaving the hotel in Causeway Bay at 8pm to go shopping and never being worried or frightened. Wonderfully written and a great trip down memory lane. JL
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read, 8 Feb 2006
By 
D C Thuesen (Verwood, Dorset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (Paperback)
This is a captivating, inspiring and beautifully written biography. Having only been shown brief glimpses of 1950s Hong Kong on cine-film and slides by my Grandmother who lived there during that decade, I have always had a curious interest of the Chinese culture, and enjoyed hearing my Grandmother's tales of expat society and Chinese culture. Since reading Martin Booth's superb and vivid memoirs of his childhood, my interest has been re-awakened, and I am now passionate to make my own trip and exploration of this marvellous place. Unfortunately we live in a world today where a child is no longer able to explore their surroundings without a parent, however Martin's amusing and albeit potentially dangerous liaisons and adventures with some of the more colourful characters of 50s Hong Kong, are a delight to read. His desire to 'go native' was certainly inspired by his mother who also developed a love for the culture and people of Hong Kong. He has certainly inspired me to make a concerted effort to learn more about the culture and people of any foreign destination I visit in the future! You won't want to put this book down for a second!!
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seen through the eyes of a young 'foreign devil'!, 24 Aug 2005
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This review is from: Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood (Paperback)
Like Booth, I grew up in Hong Kong, attending the same schools (albeit some 15 years later), even so feel still so familiar with many of the well-depicted scenes and scenarios from Gweilo.
In Gweilo, Booth paints a really colourful social history using autobiographical memories although the dichotomy between his mother (the saint who can do no wrong) and his father (the brute) is quite resounding .
Booth artfully describes and evokes the essence of post-war Hong Kong - its haphazard and unique street life and the teeming masses of squatters, contrasted par excellence to the privileged life of a 'typical' expat British family, enjoying both status and luxury (a mere dream for most Britons from the 40s and 50s - living in austerity 'back home'). He pinpoints with great precision the illusion of superiority felt by a slim percentage of the population in one of the last remaining bastions of the British Empire. This book took me back to my youth with so many fading fantasies, where time really can alter our real perceptions of the past; to mention a couple, tea at the Pen (Peninsula Hotel) which I can claim to have been party to on a dozen special occasions in my lifetime, the Chantecler and Cherikoff bakeries of Russian extraction with their freshly baked rolls and delicious cakes and of rickshaws ('che jai' - little car) utalitarian vehicles used to transport people and goods on a daily basis rather than posing for photos with tourists. Thumbs up to this recapturing of the magic of childhood thus illuminating a place and a period in time that is not often prominent in the total scheme of world history. A must-read for anyone who spent any time in Hong Kong from the 50s through 80s!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 12 Dec 2012
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This book was recommended to me by a friend and I have since recommended it to others. Wonderful and evocative story which brought back many memories of my own childhood in the Far East. Totally fantastic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifties Hong Kong, 3 Dec 2012
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Having also grown up in Hong Kong in the fifties I found this an interesting read and it bought back so many memories - Thankyou Martin Booth
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Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood
Gweilo: Memories Of A Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth (Paperback - 1 Aug 2005)
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