Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood

Martin Booth, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $24.95 (342p) ISBN 978-0-312-34817-5

In this genial, absorbing memoir of life in Hong Kong during his civil servant father's three-year (1952–1955) post there, British poet, novelist and popular historian Booth (Opium ; Cannabis ; Hiroshima Joe ; Industry of Souls ; etc.) recreates a time of wonder and recollects Chinese culture as absorbed by a fearless seven-to-nine-year-old boy. Booth makes the newness palpable as he evokes his first experiences with the taste of coconut juice, the glow of phosphorescent plankton and a rocky rickshaw ride. While his conservative father shies away from local culture, impromptu expeditions with his intrepid mother lead to a fortune teller, a leper colony and a Buddhist monastery. With innocence, insouciance and something close to a street urchin's freedom, young Booth soaks it up—a monkey ambush, a funeral procession, a typhoon, an opium den in Kowloon's Walled City—all the while stuffing himself at dai pai dong (street food stalls), hanging about the squatters' encampment, learning Chinese and spending time with characters he was warned to avoid—experiences he drew upon in his later work. No matter that the protagonist is a mere nine-year-old at the memoir's conclusion; this is a pitch-perfect, captivating tale for grownups. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/03/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
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