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Kowloon Tong

3.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  702 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Ninety-nine years of colonial rule are ending as the British prepare to hand over Hong Kong to China. For Betty Mullard and her son, Bunt, it doesn't concern them - until the mysterious Mr. Hung from the mainland offers them a large sum for their family business. They refuse, yet fail to realize Mr. Hung is unlike the Chinese they've known: he will accept no refusals. When ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 6th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,145)
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Jason Wincuinas
Mar 12, 2013 Jason Wincuinas rated it really liked it
Ambivalent. I know I gave it four stars and I stand by that; I throughly enjoyed the reading experience and I couldn't wait to find time on the train or lingering somewhere to catch up with the characters. But there's still issues. None of these people were at all likable, particularly the protagonist. But there in lies the joy as well as the ambivalence. Its all unsavory folks doing despicable things, bumping around with not much place to go. And in that context, it's all fun. If it weren't for ...more
Kristie Helms
Oct 14, 2013 Kristie Helms rated it did not like it
I normally wouldn't have finished a book as bad as this one. But I kept thinking that since it was an allegory that it would somehow wrap itself up into something satisfactory.

It didn't.

I'm a fairly dedicated reader. I adore reading. I've been reading my entire reading life. Still.... there really are only so many books that one can read in one's life. I can't believe I wasted one of those books on this one.
Mike Jensen
Mar 26, 2012 Mike Jensen marked it as books-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Story of a despicable man. I have no idea why Mr. Theroux thought his story was worth telling because I quit his company a quarter of the way through. It would be hard to describe how much I hate this book or all the reasons for hating it.
Judy Mann
Jan 07, 2015 Judy Mann rated it it was ok
I keep waiting for a hook but it ain't coming. Nothing sticks. Nothing holds together. A whole lot of characters that don't stick to the page.They don't do anything, actually.For some reason - the pervert- the main character falls in love... yeah so? See what I mean? Everything about this book is just not there.
The one good thing- which is why it got the second star-is that we don't have to listen to Paul Theroux telling us what a brilliant writer he thinks Paul Theroux is.I mean give me a break
Apr 24, 2013 Christian rated it liked it
The thing I love about Paul Theroux is that as a travel writer, he really seems to dislike travelling. This is fiction of course, however the thoughts of the main character are exactly what I would expect him to be thinking in the context of a place like Hong Kong. I think fiction just gives him licence to be more bitter than he usually is. I was initially dissatisfied with the direction the story took, but the interview he gave in Atlantic magazine (see link below) helped me appreciate some of ...more
Jessie Navarro-Parks
...I'll agree with most in that if it wasn't for Theroux's writing, I would've burned the sumbitch like 7 chapters in...even though the end had me all like "what the fuck, really dude?", I do appreciate him sparing us the Hollywood ending...while the characters do come off as borderline stereotypical, I feel they do give the novel a better sense of realism where they're not sounds weird but I almost have an idea of how each character smells..the cinephile in me is screaming for Wes A ...more
Dec 15, 2014 Clay rated it really liked it
I read this because I had just helped organize a conference in Kowloon Tong, and spent 5 days visiting there and many of the other spots featured in the book. During our visit there, the final protesters from Occupy Central were arrested and carted off, which is something Theroux would have predicted. It is surprising, though, how vital a city Hong Kong remains, despite the ominous Chinese government presence. This is still a world class city, bursting with economic vitality and culture. Public ...more
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
le velate minacce cinesi vs la gelida educazione inglese

Bunt è un fesso che gestisce la fabbrica di paparino nella colonia inglese a un passo dalle restituzione
come tutti i coloni sfrutta la popolazione locale, li detesta e va a donnacce nei locali più infimi dove può diprezzare con calma anche le donne ree di richiamare i suoi bassi istinti
Hung è il prototipo del cinese stronzo, un militare che praticamente costringe Bunt e la sua detestabilissima madre, che odia i cinesi più delle pulci, a ven
Mar 16, 2015 Margaret rated it did not like it
I wanted to read this because Theroux is a good writer and the book got a very good review when first published in 1998. And, because I had been to Hong Kong, I thought a book about the Chinese takeover, written as a mystery, would be great. But I hated this book--all of the characters are despicable, some outright racist. And the women factory workers (undocumented immigrants) are completely exploited for work and sex. I hated every minute of this book and threw it away when I finished it. I am ...more
Chase Insteadman Mountbatten
Febbraio 2010
Riletto qualche mese fa di ritorno da Hong Kong, viaggio di cui riporto qui il diario di bordo:

Hong Kong: uno scritto di getto dall'isola allucinante piu' una parziale *autocritica* meditata dal paesello.

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong 17 settembre 2009 :

"Hong Kong e' uno scassamento di minchia" avrei scritto ieri se avessi trovato una connessione internet. E comunque lo riconfermo. Ma sono in parte stato ripagato dal museo Hong Kong di storia,
Patrick McCoy
Sep 27, 2011 Patrick McCoy rated it it was ok
Paul Theroux’s Hong Kong handover novel Kowloon Tong is a bit of a satire, a bit of an allegory, and a bit of a thriller. Well, it’s not much of any of these things, hence my dissatisfaction with it. I wish he would have taken any of these possible motifs and developed them more fully. And, to be honest, it wasn’t much of a thriller, there's no resolution. I don’t think it was as good as his other fictional efforts like My Secret History and My Other Self. Nor does it have the energy or life of ...more
Jun 09, 2009 Ed rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Interested in Hong Kong
Ultimately a disappointment, this novel started fast and petered out with an ending that challenged believability.

I rated it as high as I did because the writing and descriptions were up to Theroux's standards. The plot, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

The characters are somewhat stereotyped but not as badly as some other reviewers thought. They are more likely composites, created to emphasize their failings.

I have met ex-pats who refuse to eat Chinese food, who describe the Chinese negati
Bev Taylor
Feb 26, 2015 Bev Taylor rated it really liked it
a mother and her 43 year old son r in hong kong just prior to the chinese takeover. or chinese takeaway as the colonials call it!

they now have sole ownership of a factory after their chinese partner dies but someone wants to buy it

he is chinese and will not take no for an answer. he uses dubious means and who is assisting him?

an interesting insight into life in this troubled country at that time

Dec 12, 2010 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Why do I think that Theroux, in naming his lead character "Bunt", was one letter away from what he really wanted to call him? And I don't mean "Dunt". This novel was Theroux's take on the handover of Hong Kong to China from the British. Basically, the story was about how we've been shagging the colony for years, exploited her citizens, pissed on her culture and wished we'd made it Southend on Sea. Now we were faced with an unsmiling, brutish, military regime who'd tolerate no nonsense or comprom ...more
Alex Krembs
May 05, 2015 Alex Krembs rated it liked it
A novel based on the Hong Kong handover. A British man owns a factory in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong - which is under a forced sale. The owner is happy and content with his property, but is under pressure to leave Hong Kong by the terms of sale of his factory.

The storyline of this British character mirrors nicely to that of England, the country. We tend to think of private property as different from that of sovereign states. So the comparison presents the subject of the Hong Kong territory under te
Jun 04, 2012 R.L. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, china, hong-kong
Desperate for something to read--found this book on my bookshelf. I bought it years ago from the remainder table at B&N. Theroux is one of those authors who I've never read, but who I have a vaguely positive impression of for some reason.

I hoped that this book would be educational as well as entertaining, since I don't know anything about Hong Kong in general, nor about the "the Handover" in particular.

I was impressed with the fluidity of Theroux' prose, with his descriptive ability, and wit
Anne Cupero
Jun 27, 2015 Anne Cupero rated it liked it
Strange book. I didn't like it at the beginning because I didn't see it going anywhere but then it definitely picked up. Every character in it is a wretch, all self-absorbed and petty. But it pulls you in, until the end which just gives you a feeling of dislike for Bunt and Betty and sadness for Mei-ping.
Jane Ciabattari
May 15, 2014 Jane Ciabattari rated it it was amazing
I included Kowloon Tong in my latest Between the Lines column for, a booklovers' guide to Hong Kong:
Mar 29, 2011 William rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Novel Readers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick Skwiot
Dec 14, 2013 Rick Skwiot rated it it was ok
A dispiriting and dreary novel without one admirable character. The book’s first half showed promise, but the author then seemed to lose interest and energy. The result is a dwindling, episodic plot without causality, the characters incapable of taking independent action or surprising the reader in any way. Theroux, a fan of Georges Simenon, seems influenced here by the latter’s spare psychological novels, with their claustrophobic settings and weak, haunted protagonists. However, Theroux fails ...more
May 31, 2008 Ami rated it liked it
Not at all a bad read. Interestingly enough, I was in Hong Kong in 1996, before the "Chinese take-away", as Theroux refers to it in the book. The story was a quick, easy read and didn't get boring. However, my problems with this book stem from the fact that (1) Theroux naively attempts to explain a culture that is foreign to him and thus makes overgeneralizing statements that end up trivializing the culture he sets out to explain and share and (2) I felt it was a bit too similar to the story and ...more
Aug 07, 2011 Maria added it
The theme of our recent reading group meeting was books set in HK, so I thought I'd use this as an excuse to read some of Theroux's fiction. It was not a fantastic book, but overall I quite enjoyed it. The characters are unattractive and some quite sinister. It paints an interesting picture of the mood of HK at the time of handover - difficult to imagine it from the standpoint of HK now. I tend to enjoy Theroux's writing regardless of whether the subject matter is to my taste or not, and this wa ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Michele rated it did not like it
I hoped that this book might at least end well. It didn't. What a terrible portrayal of Hong Kong and of Chinese people...
Feb 05, 2014 Antonia rated it it was amazing
As usual, Theroux doesn't disappoint. Set in Hong Kong in the year preceding the PRC take-over, it's a rich story of culture clash and human foible.
Jul 24, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
Wrapped up a little too quickly in the context of what was becoming an intriguing twist in the storyline.
Aug 19, 2015 Jami rated it liked it
I didn't find this story to be particularly compelling. I love his travel writing.
Feb 23, 2014 Anca rated it really liked it
This one was really hard on the stomach.
Jul 20, 2011 Sophie rated it it was ok
There's a great story in here, but the telling doesn't seem to do it justice. Reviewers have described it as a thriller. It certainly could have been: it has greed, violence, mysterious disappearances and an exotic setting to boot. Why then did I not feel thrilled at any point during the reading of it? Where was the tension and suspense? On the plus side, some of the psychology is very well-observed, and I have found myself thinking about it since finishing reading it - perhaps the aftertaste is ...more
Ben Schaffer
Nov 30, 2014 Ben Schaffer rated it it was ok
Jeroen Kraan
Interesting if highly imperfect novel about a truly loathsome cast of characters in Hong Kong just before it was handed over to the Chinese ('the Chinese take-away'). I won't go into the plot, because it is not particularly pleasant or interesting. What is interesting is the depiction of the atmosphere in Hong Kong, particularly among the English inhabitants, in its final moments of belonging to the UK. In that sense it is vaguely similar to Orwell's Burmese Days, but lacking his far greater wit ...more
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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