Anne Berry's The Hungry Ghosts is a stunning debut, brilliant in the seamless intricacy of a story that plays out over a 60-year period, beginning with the brutal Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. Epic in scope and voice, the book moves from British Hong Kong to England and Paris, returning to post-colonial Hong Kong, now a part of the People's Republic of China.
This book is so skillfully crafted, and the writing so elegant, it's hard to believe it is a first novel. Some years ago, critic Noah Richler railed against young new writers emerging from creative writing programs, the product of too many writing workshops and not enough real-life experience. Anne Berry is his dream. Berry, 54, was born in Hong Kong to a former key figure in the colonial government. She ran an acting school and wrote plays, in addition to working as a speech therapist and a reporter. Now living in England, Berry writes full time and has already finished a second novel. Her diverse background and experience are perhaps the perfect companions to the talent and insight that have created this page-turning book.
The story centres on two characters, 12-year-old Alice Safford, the eccentric third daughter of a high-ranking official in the British colonial government in Hong Kong, and the restless spirit of Lin Shui, a young girl raped and murdered by a Japanese solider in 1942. Lin Shui lingers in a netherworld between the living and the dead, haunting a morgue in an abandoned British army hospital.
When the hospital is reborn as a private school for the children of colonial officials, Lin Shui attaches herself to young Alice, a deeply troubled child existing in the quintessential English colonial world of stiff upper lips, carefully controlled façades and undercurrents of deceit and betrayal. read more....