At seven years old, Martin Booth found himself with all of Hong Kong at his feet. His father was posted there in 1952, and this memoir is his telling of that youth, a time when he had access to the corners of a colony normally closed to a "Gweilo," a "pale fellow" like him.
His experiences were colorful and vast. Befriending rickshaw coolies and local stallholders, he learned Cantonese, sampled delicacies such as boiled water beetles and one-hundred-year-old eggs, and participated in vibrant festivals. He even entered the forbidden Kowloon Walled City, wandered into a secret lair of Triads, and visited an opium den.
From the plink-plonk man with his dancing monkey to the Queen of Kowloon (a crazed tramp who may have been a Romanov), Martin Booth saw it all---but his memoir illustrates the deeper challenges he faced in his warring parents: a broad-minded mother who embraced all things Chinese and a bigoted father who was enraged by his family's interest in "going native."
Martin Booth's compelling memoir, the last book he completed before dying, glows with infectious curiosity and humor and is an intimate representation of the now extinct time and place of his growing up.
Thomas Dunne Books
Thomas Dunne Books
Thomas Dunne Books
Thomas Dunne Books
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'd never heard of English author Martin Booth before. He wrote this personal memoir, recounting 3 years of his childhood in Hong Kong in the early 1950s, just before he recently died of brain cancer. He dedicated the book to his own children, as a way to pass on the story of his life to them. It reads like a novel - one incredible adventure after the next of a boy of 7 let loose on the streets of Hong Kong in the wild years after WWII. It also details the breakdown of the marriage of his mother and father. This is a real treasure trove, a look at the world through the new eyes of a child, but guided by the wise older hand of an older author. I feel like I have traveled and lived in Hong Kong - the sites, sounds, smells - the culture, food, weather, animals, people - all brilliantly alive and real. I also have a better sense of the Chinese and what it means to be Chinese, and a desire to learn more. I only wish Martin had a memoir of his entire life!
I've always been fascinated by Martin Booth's writings about Hong Kong, in particular, his book on triads, which was an inside (and somewhat lurid) look at the Chinese underworld.
By contrast, "Golden Boy" is his memoir: first published shortly after his death (originally under the title "Gweilo"-- once a term used to describe foreigners--with some derision--in southern China). As a young, golden-haired boy amid the bustling Hong Kong of the 1950s, Booth shows how his relationship with friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers gives the word a whole new meaning as a term of endearment. His memoir of living in Hong Kong is an extremely powerful and rare work. If you have ever lived in Hong Kong, no matter what era, you will be moved by Booth's book and will nod in fond remembrance as Booth perfectly captures the sights, smells, and colors of Hong Kong. I found Booth's mother to be one of the most sympathetic and likeable of people, while Booth's father I wish I could...
Although I've been living in the States for years now, I am a Hong Kong "local" who grew up not too far away from the Fourseas Hotel where young Booth began his adventures in Hong Kong. Booth's memoir brought me right back to Hong Kong, as if I could see the foggy harbor, smell the joss sticks burning in a temple and hear the chatter from busy dai-pai-dongs. Booth's description of Hong Kong is so vivid and lively that I felt I was right there with him roaming all over Kowloon and the Peak. The way Booth intertwined the story with his adventures in Hong Kong and his parents strained marriage makes the book a very interesting read. I can feel Booth's love for Hong Kong throughout his writing, and as a local, I'm proud to know that a Gweilo loves my hometown as much as I do.
For the curious folks out there, I checked with my Dad, who informed me that the Fourseas Hotel was remodeled into a bowling alley, and then got torn down and rebuilt as another hotel which is still in...
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