The Jade Pavilion

Martin Booth, Author
Martin Booth, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $0 (466p) ISBN 978-0-87113-239-0
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
Booth, an English author with extensive knowledge of the Far East, who made a good impression with Hiroshima Joe , offers a tale set in prewar and wartime Hong Kong and Macao that for all its exotic color and authentic atmosphere never really takes hold of the reader. Sean Mulrenan is an Irish exile cocktail pianist who becomes a gunrunner and shady dealer in precious stones, sustained by greed and an abiding hatred of the English. The beautiful Anglo-Chinese Alice Soon has been a prostitute in a fancy brothel but when Sean takes up with her she gradually leaves the life. The novel is the account of their melancholy and not too convincing relationship, as Sean flees to India after a rather mistily plotted assassination of a Japanese official and Alice endures the war back in Macao, achieving near saintly qualities as she does so. There is a believable quarrel scene on Sean's postwar return, followed by a melodramatic conclusion in which he gets his deserts and Alice becomes cozy with the nuns. But despite some effective writing from time to time, there is almost no narrative tension, and the characters are never brought to more than sporadic life. As a result, this is neither a serious novel nor an exotic pleasure read, but falls uneasily and glumly between the two. (September)
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