Book review: The Hong Kong Letters

Gill Shaddick's part-memoir part-travelogue of adventures in Hong Kong

Book Reviews

Spirited memoir recreates "a Hong Kong of the imagination".


IN 1968, Gill Shaddick left England to take up a job in advertising in Hong Kong.

She travelled by the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow - an adventure in itself. So, what next?

The following year, at the height of China's cultural revolution, a yacht sails out of Hong Kong and disappears. The world's press takes up the story of the crew who are presumed lost.

But Gill and her friends are very much alive, held captive in a Chinese fishing village by Communist militia.

As she faces questioning by the People's Liberation Army, there is much she'd rather not tell - that her crewmates are British soldiers, her flatmates are Japanese (old adversaries of the Chinese), or that her boss in Hong Kong is well known for "firing Reds".

The Hong Kong Letters is the spirited part-memoir, part-travelogue, of a 21-year-old who is wined and dined by the elite, who learns to stand her ground at her job, and whose luck changes when Paddy O'Neil-Dunne joins the firm.

After several visits to a casino in Macau, Paddy embarks on the longest roulette game ever played and insists Gill join in; but she finds Hong Kong's waters more seductive and takes up sailing.

A tale of unexpected twists and a host of funny, bizarre and whimsical events are captured in this memoir based on Gill's letters to home.

The author only began writing six years ago when she retired to care for her husband who has multiple sclerosis. This is her first book.

The Hong Kong Letters, by Gill Shaddick (Arcadia) RRP $34.95.

READ MORE:Ron McCallum autobiography: Born at the Right Time

READ MORE:Hard to believe but it's now 100 years since the first William book was published