Marvelously appealing memoir charts an enchanted few years of boyhood in post-war Hong Kong.
Escaping from dreary old 1952 England on a boat bound for Hong Kong, Booth's mother whispered to him “Aren't we the lucky ones?” And they were—their next few years on the island would be marked by such color and life as they'd never seen back in Blighty. Happy chance that Martin's father, an Admiralty civil servant, had been posted there; happier chance that he had a job that kept him out of the house all day, sparing his vivacious, fun-loving wife and intrepid son of his gloomy presence. Booth shares vivid scenes from 50 years ago, of a Hong Kong still slightly sleepy after the war, a place where a boy could wander the teeming streets unaccompanied for countless hours, and run across a cobra or a porcupine in the more rural pockets. Young Martin threw himself into the local culture, going fearlessly as far as his legs would take him—to local markets, mountainsides and even the lawless quarter run by the local mafia, where Booth was taken under the wing of a young thug who revealed their opium dens, brothels and secret meeting rooms, and then made clear what would happen to the boy if he ever told of what he'd seen. Through conversation and friendship with other friendly locals, young Booth also learns about the war, the conflict between the Japanese and the Chinese, the tactics of the communists and the fate of the hustling refugees who filled the Hong Kong streets. The author also learns what kind of a man his father is (not a very nice one), and what a woman of quality his mother is, exploring their relationship from the eyes of the child he was, interpreting it with the knowledge he has now.
Warm and vivid, bursting with life and energy, this is a valentine—but a clear-eyed one—to a particular place and time.