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Pao Paperback – 6 Jun 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Paperback, 6 Jun 2011
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (6 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140881207X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408812075
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,009,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Impressive ... Told in a kind of Chinese-Jamaican patois, the first person narrative is captivating ... With grace, authenticity and humour, Young lets Jamaica's political history shine through the life story of her charming yet fallible hero. Brilliant (Daily Mail)

Kerry Young's energetic debut novel is a pacy but absorbing saga of domestic struggle and gangland manoeuvring set against the violent backdrop of postwar Jamaican politics ... Murder, corruption, blackmail, kidnap and incest drive the narrative ... Foregrounding Pao's personal travails against Jamaica's complex and deep-seated conflicts gives panoramic depth to the punchy tale of pungent characters and impassioned entanglements (Independent on Sunday)

Lovingly recreates the Jamaican Chinese world of [Young's] childhood, with its betting parlours, laundries, fortune telling shops, supermarkets and (business being a hard game in Jamaica) gang warfare ... In pages of patois-inflected prose, Pao celebrates the islands vibrant ethnic mix ... Confirms Young as a gifted new writer. Her novel is a blindingly good read in parts, both for its mesmeric story-telling and the quality of its prose (Observer)

A vivid portrayal of the complexities of Jamaica's violent underworld ... Kerry Young's heartfelt, sparky and affecting debut novel is a chronicle of multicultural Jamaica, both in its cultural richness and in its strife and tensions (Guardian)

Book Description

A richly imagined, wholly engrossing and utterly captivating novel that tells the remarkable history of twentieth century Jamaica as seen through the eyes of Pao, a Chinese-Jamaican racketeer

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I enjoyed Pao - it was an interesting and well told story but I must admit that by the end of the book I also felt an underlying tinge of irritation. Like the author I too am a Jamaican of mixed heritage - my origin is not Chinese but African, Portuguese, Scottish and Irish ('out of many ...') and, like the author, I grew up in Kingston in the sixties and seventies (the period when much of the book is set) and I, like the author moved to the UK in the seventies when my parents emigrated there. The author claims the book is (and isn't) a political history of Jamaica - and I would like to put the stress on the 'isn't'. Ms. Young describes the Chinese community in Jamaica very well and her portrayals are, in many ways, wonderfully accurate but they are also deeply flawed. My own recollection of the Chinese community was that they were, almost a man, die-hard Chaing Kai Chek supporters. Most of their shops and restaurants had framed photographs of Chaing and Madam Chaing and they celebrated 'Double Ten' (the anniversary of one of Chaing Kai Chek's victories) with almost as much gusto as they did Chinese New Year. A Mao supporting businessman in downtown Kingston in the sixties would, quite simply, have been run out of town. Ms. Young is also overly simplistic when describing the racial and political turmoil of the time. One of the reasons that so many mixed race or non-black or light skinned people left Jamaica in the seventies was not, as Ms. Young claims, to hoard their wealth, but because it was made painfully clear to them by Michael Manley and his supporters that they had no future in Jamaica. Manley encouraged an outpouring of bitterness and resentment against this group of people and encouraged the downtrodden to believe that their poverty was an essential component of other people's wealth.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
i read it at home, on the tube, at work, in bed, at the gym, in the shower (ok, so not actually in the shower)... i simply couldn't stop; i had to know what was going to happen next and whether pao's latest scheme would come off.

told in the first person, the story spans the life of yang pao from his arrival in jamaica as a young boy to his ascension to the position of 'godfather' of chinatown. pao is guided by the social and philosophical ideals of his mentor and step father, zhang and the writings of sun tzu as he attempts to manage events at home and in business.

yang pao is inexplicably, compellingly loveable despite his misdeeds and the rhythm and flow of his narrative make this an easy page turner (even for someone like me who generally has little interest in reading about history and politics). yes, the signposts for dates are not always clear (especially to the politically ignorant) and yes, the story spans a vast time period over what can seem like too few pages, but for me this is symptomatic of being swept up on pao's journey, observing as he does, discovering as he does, regretting as he does without being bogged down by mundane description so many authors seem preoccupied with (i was going to ask "who wants to know what a character had for dinner?", but in this case i most definitely did!!). nonetheless, the pace of the story is not at the expense of the little details and pao's matter-of-fact, often comical perspective on life is what makes the book. can't wait to read gloria's side of the story!

don't be put off by the historical, political and philosophical undertones, for whilst 'pao' encompasses all of these disciplines, it is essentially a book about life and family.
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Format: Paperback
In her Costa Prize short-listed first novel, Kerry Young brings together a huge number of elements that make up a good story. Set in Jamaica, the time period covers 1938 to almost present day, it is the political backdrop of independence and control over Jamaica's assets that informs much of the story. But while the politics of Jamaica resound throughout the book, it's also a very personal story about the life of the eponymous Yang Pao. Issues of race, class, love, family, ambition and business philosophy - Pao's guiding light is Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" - are skillfully woven into the mix.

One of the first things that you notice is that because the story is narrated by Pao, it is all told in his own dialect form of English. To illustrate with a sentence at random: "Him no say nothing to me". She also interchanges "you" and "yu" - although quite what the difference is was lost on me. Some will undoubtedly find that irritating, and I confess that after longer periods of reading I did sort of yearn for a full, grammatical sentence, but in truth your mind quickly becomes attuned to the style and the meaning is always clear. I had more of a struggle with the dialogue in that there does not appear to be much difference between the style of language between those of Chinese and African-Jamaican origin. However, with the author's Chinese/Jamaican heritage, I can only assume that it's totally accurate.

Pao runs a protection business in Chinatown. He's sort of like a small time version of Tony Soprano. As so often with gangster-based literature, he has a moral element and is nice to his mother in a sort of Reggie Kray way, and sees himself almost as a Robin Hood figure.
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