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A compassionate and moving love story in a unique setting- a house of prostitution in Hong Kong. Robert Lomas, an Englishman, has deserted the security of a rubber plantation for a new love, painting. Funds are diminishing and he is seeking low-priced quarters where he can mix with the people he wants to paint. The answer is the Nam Kok Hotel, and he doesn't suspect its function as a place of assignation until he is installed- an anomaly to the ""girls"" who adopt him as a bulwark against their job of pleasuring the sailors in port. One gets to know the girls as individuals, warmly likable with their hopes and aspirations, their loves and hates, their loyalties. And chiefly one grows in affection -- and occasional irritation- for Suzie Wong, who takes on her job to insure her baby son growing up as a student, not illiterate as she is herself. Suzie has more than learning. She lives in a dual world; her spirit remains untouched by her way of earning a living. Occasionally heartbreak comes, when a door seems to open to her dream world- only to meet rejection. But always there is Robert. Robert can't afford her and won't share her. And only Ah Tong, at the hotel desk, knows she is not ""his girl"". There is humor and pathos in the unfolding of their story; there is perceptive understanding of basic values. Never is there tawdry misuse of the background; one sees the girls as human beings, the men who seek them as lonely, starved boys, with an occasional twisted personality, a pervert or a sadist. And always there's the teeming background of Hong Kong, tensions glimpsed across the straits, the artificiality of the foreign residents' false standards as a foil to the main thread of story...In essence there is similarity to his first book, The Wind Cannot Read (1947). The issues posed there find resolution in this more mature and moving romance. That the ending is plausible- and what one hopes for -- is made convincing, as are the conflicts, the setups, the pathos and the contradictions along the way. Not, perhaps, a novel for all tastes; but one that leaves even some pretty hard-boiled readers profoundly stirred.

Pub Date: July 24th, 1957
Publisher: World