Photo of Kowloon by beembag used under a Creative Commons license.
Paul Theroux, Kowloon Tong (Houghton Mifflin, 1997).
A novel of Britain’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, but written before the event rather than after it, perhaps in an effort to capitalize on it. If Hong Kong sheds its colonial past like Macau has, this novel will be a historical document of sorts showing what the British there were like by the late 1990s, and those who’ve read Theroux’s other work will not be surprised that the picture is not flattering. Few of Theroux’s characters are particularly sympathetic, which does not prevent the novel from carrying out its own vision but may detract from a reader’s enjoyment. The whiff of allegory is sometimes hard to ignore as well.
Theroux’s site describes the book. The Atlantic‘s Anthony Grant interviewed Theroux upon the novel’s publication. Michael McCaughan reviewed the novel for Slate. Thomas Keneally reviewed the novel for The New York Times. So did Richard Bernstein. Dwight Garner reviewed the book for Salon. Paul Gray reviewed the book for Time. Maria Noëlle Ng wrote about the book in Canadian Literature. Hong Kong blogger Richard H didn’t care for it. Migs Bassig doesn’t like what the novel says about Manila. James P. Rice of The Chinese University of Hong Kong writes about Kowloon Tong as one of “four allegories of the colonial experience in Hong Kong,” downloadable in what seems to be an excerpt from Thomas Y.T. Luk and James P. Rice, eds., Before and After Suzie: Hong Kong in Western Film and Literature (The Chinese University Press, 2002).