I have really been looking forward to this latest novel from Christine Coleman for some time now, especially as I knew that I was going to be visiting Hong Kong and Lamma Island myself earlier this year. I was at first a little disappointed that it was not in fact launched until after my return. I had been hoping to read this before travelling to Hong Kong as an insight into the places I was to be seeing shortly. One of the pleasures of reading for me is the new places and things I learn about on the printed page before me.
However that was not to be the case this time and I now actually feel very lucky to have been able to read this after having been in Hong Kong so recently, the whole book came alive on the pages for me. I can reassure you though that even if you have not been there Christine still writes in such a vibrant manner that vivid pictures will be painted in your mind. It is just that for me there was the extra gravitas of familiarity as I trod the same ground as the protagonist Ann myself, just in March of this year. It was sheer pleasure to retread and relive the sights, sounds and smells of Hong Kong through this author's descriptive writing.
This is one of the many scenes that is described perfectly in the novel
Bicycles on the pier at Lamma Island.
If you are interested in a more visual experience of the places you can read about in the novel please feel free to view my recent photos of both Hong Kong and Lamma Island. Clicking on the blue link will take you there and volume four is where you will find photos of Lamma in particular. China March 2010
Christine seems to have a talent for taking normal people just like those you come across in everyday life and has managed to weave an engrossing tale around them, that in all feasibility could well have been a real life situation. In fact her inspiration for the novel came from a collection of old letters that came into her possession. Inspiration
A story that covers three different time periods starts with one of the main protagonists Ann planning a trip to Hong Kong to visit her estranged mother, Vivienne. Ann lacking in confidence and plain in comparison has always been in awe of her beautiful mother. Although there has been very little contact between them since Vivienne deserted her family when Ann was only sixteen and she has felt betrayed ever since by the mother she does not think fondly of. In fact Ann always felt much closer to her beloved grandmother and was excited later in the novel when she was able to revisit some of the places that Granibelle who had also spent some time there in the thirties had done.
As a side comment of personal relevance I also found these retracing steps interludes particularly poignant as my own father served part of his army national service in Hong Kong and had related many stories to me about his time there. It meant a lot to me being able to imagine him in certain spots all those years ago, just as Ann and George, the only male protagonist, were able to recreate Granibelle's outings in the novel.
It is while in Hong Kong that Ann discovers, from ephemera that she is given to read by her mother, that there are secrets in her family's past that force her to reappraise her own life. As the story unfolds it is the revelations that will keep you reading about the past pains that the women in this family put themselves through and are only now many years later getting the chance to put behind them and understand each other.
I highly recommend that you get hold of a copy of this novel to read if you can. Ok it is not deep and meaningful, but it is a sheer pleasure to read and relax with. I do not think many people would be able to find anything to dislike about it.
Christine Coleman's last novel was published in 2005 and I read it in 2007.
This was before I was trying to write proper reviews, but you can read what I had to say about it here. http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/4626249
Christine Coleman also has her own website where you will find a lot more interesting information about both her and her writing. I recommend you take a look.