Home entertainment

The Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry (Blue Door) To be honest, I am a trifle conflicted about this book. on one hand, I found the story extremely alluring and, although it took me a while to read it, I didn’t want to read anything else in-between.

This is as close to unputdownable as you can get. on the other hand? Well, I’ll get to that later. Alice Safford is the troubled daughter of a divine and doting father and a snooty lush of a mother. They live in Hong Kong in the 1960s, where Daddy works for Her oajesty’s colonial government while oummy stays at home sipping whiskey and looking down on everyone else, especially Alice, who has two ghastly older sisters and a horrible fat pig of a brother. Alice also has a ghost – a young Chinese girl, raped and murdered decades before, who has been waiting in a disused morgue for just the right host. Alice’s ghost creates mayhem in the young girl’s life when there is possibly quite enough mayhem there already. Hong Kong is soon to be handed back to the Chinese, after all, and the locals will no longer have to kowtow to the white folk.

Soon the white folk will be outsiders. But Alice is an outsider wherever she goes, thanks to the monkey on her back. And when she is old enough to eventually flee her beloved Asian island for England, the mayhem merely travels with her. Her little problem with vodka doesn’t exactly help, either. As the book goes on, the mother only gets snootier, the sisters more ghastly and the ghost (plus friends) more parasitic, which is why I found myself hoping that a tidal wave would sweep the darn tome out of my hands and give me a good excuse to not finish it. The writing is wonderful, the background lush and unusual, the characters unique, the story powerful. It’s just that what with everybody apart from poor Alice being so thoroughly awful, a reader could lose the will to live.

The Hungry Ghosts is definitely an exceptional book – just don’t go into it expecting the feel-good factor.

Related stories

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.