GBA Lifestyle News
By Gayatri Bhaumik | January 31st, 2019

With its complex history, mix of nationalities, and East-meets-West personality, our city is one that lends itself to compelling stories. These 10 books set in Hong Kong flesh out some of the most interesting aspects of the city.

Buttterfly Hill 
Brendan Le Grange

In this sequel to le Grange’s “Drachen,” art thief Hiko Shimuzu and Belgian detective Matthys Russou are locked in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse. The setting? The lush hills of Lantau Island, which provide the perfect backdrop to this explosive thriller.

James Clavell

The second novel in Clavell’s “Asian Saga” series, Tai-Pan is a fascinating tale of commercial rivalry. The story plays out in 1842, amidst the political upheaval of a Hong Kong that’s transitioning to British rule in the wake of the Opium War. 

The World of Suzie Wong
Richard Mason

A gritty tale exploring the fraught relationship between Brit artist Robert Lomax and sex worker Suzie Wong, this no-holds-barred novel delves straight into the seedy side of 1950s Hong Kong. 

Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood
Martin Booth

An autobiographical tale of Booth’s childhood in 1950s Hong Kong, this account is made charming by being told through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy. Readers follow him through the fishing villages of Sha Tin and explore the grim side of Kowloon’s Walled City, amongst other now non-existent parts of the city.

The Monkey King
Timothy Mo

In this family-focused novel, readers are treated to a tongue-in-cheek account of the complexities of familial relationships. Wallace Nolasco marries into the Poon family expecting to improve his lineage and social standing — but things don’t quite go as he expects. This is a fun, local story that will resonate with local readers. 

Fragrant Harbour
John Lachester

Crossing several decades and following the stories of four very different people, this evocative book unveils different aspects and experiences of Hong Kong. Follow along as the local and expat protagonists live through the Japanese occupation and the handover, and so much more.

The Piano Teacher
Janice YK Lee

In this international bestseller, readers are treated to a glimpse of Hong Kong high society under colonial rule, all from the perspective of Will Truesdale, an Englishman who takes a job as a chauffeur in the city. Spanning the 1940s and 1950s, this time-travelling tale seamlessly brings together romance, loss, betrayal and explores the human condition.

The Honorable Schoolboy
John le Carré

Part of le Carré’s “Karla” Trilogy, which began with “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” this spy thriller weaves its way through a large chunk of Southeast Asia — but heads slightly north to land in Hong Kong. If you can muddle through the rather technically-appropriate language, you’ll be treated to a classic espionage tale of drug-smuggling, daring helicopter rescues — and of course, dashing British spies.

Love in a Fallen City
Eileen Chang

Set in pre-war and wartime Hong Kong, this collection of short stories explore different forms of that universal human theme — love. There’s a starkness in the way Chang so skilfully shows people falling in love, then dealing with the trials and tribulations that follow. 

A Many Splendoured Thing
Han Suyin

It’s a love story, sure, but this captivating novel is so much more than a romance. As readers following the brewing relationship between British foreign correspondent Mark Elliott and a Eurasian doctor originally from the mainland, readers get a glimpse into the political affiliations and societal structure of mid-century Hong Kong. Fun Fact: this was turned into a gorgeous film starring William Holden, and features dreamy views of 1950s Hong Kong. 

Looking for more in-depth stories about Hong Kong? Check out our city living section.