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The Harbour

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  185 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
A stunning and utterly captivating debut about war, love and culpability in 1940s Hong Kong.
Paperback, 340 pages
Published July 1st 2012 by Bloomsbury UK (first published June 7th 2012)
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Sam Still Reading
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people looking for a historical love story
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: sent to me by the publisher
When I first began to read The Harbour, I felt worried. That kind of worried feeling when you realise that you’re at a party and you know absolutely no-one. This book doesn’t muck around – it’s straight into the action. Stevie, the protagonist, is whisked away from a day at Happy Valley racecourse by her Chinese husband Jishang to meet a Chinese matriarch. Why does Stevie want to meet Madame Kung? Why is she in Hong Kong if she loves Shanghai so much?

Patience does pay off though and soon we lear
Elise Gordon
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book for this author's debut. At first it seemed like it could turn into another corny love story but it managed to keep away from this. Very well researched and based on true stories. Although awful, putting the main character through some of the worst experiences of war in Hong Kong was truly captivating and I certainly learnt a lot about that particular dark patch in history.
Emma Jackson
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Really great book.
Bree T
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is summer of 1940 in Hong Kong and Stevie Steiber is a young American ex-pat on the island by way of Shanghai. A journalist, she has mostly written glitzty gossipy columns, keeping people updated on the glamorous days of Happy Valley racecourse. Now she is attempting to undertake a serious project – the story of three influential sisters. She has secured the co-operation of two, but the third one remains elusive until she gets word from her Chinese boyfriend that Stevie has finally been grant ...more
Christina Rochester
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Harbour is set from 1940 to 1945; mainly on the island of Hong Kong. At this time control of Hong Kong was between China and Britain; with mainland China being referred to as Free China. However this is during WW2 and the Japanese manage to occupy Hong Kong until 1945. Our two main characters; Stevie, an American journalist and Harry, a British officer, meet not long before the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and begin an illicit affair. The story follows both of them as they are torn apart ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
In 1949, when he was just sixteen years old, my father left school and joined the navy. His first posting was in Hong Kong, and though he traveled to many places after that, it was Hong Kong that made the lasting impression, that he often spoke about.

The Harbour opens in Hong Kong some years earlier, in 1940, and it brought the place my father loved completely to life, and reminded me of so many of the things that he is no longer here to say.

The heroine of this particular story is Stevie Streibe
Kerry Hennigan
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Set in Hong Kong during the 1940s, "The Harbour" follows the fortunes of American journalist Stephanie (Stevie) Steiber. Stevie meets a handsome British officer, Major Harry Field, who is investigating suspicious activity amongst new arrivals to the Crown colony. One of them is Stevie's Chinese partner Jishang with whom she publishes a supposedly non-partisan political magazine.

Stevie's work on a book about the Soong sisters also brings her into contact with both the Chinese Nationals and commun
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more than I did but in the main it was rather a laborious read only really picking up well over halfway through. I couldn’t warm to Stevie Steiber at all – I found her selfish, rude, volatile and reckless. Her love interest, the very British Major Harry Field seemed to me to be a rather wooden character whenever he appeared in the story and I didn’t really get the feeling of any great passion from his side - either with the love affair or indeed anything else.

Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Nearly tossed it in the damned harbour...what a waste of material. It ought to be one star.

The agent who sold this one is damned genius...

So, great premise, location and time: done in TV and film and books a hundred times but still plenty of room for drama and there are moments that are gripping...but I spent more yelling out: oh please!

We get little sense of the build-up with all the expectation of invasion - none - and anyway, we don't care about so many people because the majority are all ras
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book looked so much my cup of tea on the surface, but I found it an immense disappointment - stunning and utterly compelling it really wasn't. The book's in three parts - life in Hong Kong before the Japanese invasion, the horror of the occupation, and post war. The pre-war picture is really richly drawn, the partying ex-pat community and the immensely lavish lifestyles of the rich who live on the hill. It also introduces us to Stevie, American journalist married - apparently for convenienc ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stevie es una norteamericana afincada en Hong Kong que se gana la vida escribiendo artículos de sociedad para su posterior publicación en Estados Unidos. Hastiada de este empleo, lo que en realidad anhela es escribir un libro sobre las hermanas Soong, que la granjee un mayor reconocimiento y que permita que el mundo la contemple como una escritora seria. Gracias a las buenas conexiones de Jishang, su novio/amante/amigo chino, podrá moverse por las altas esferas de la sociedad. La vida de Stevie ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-general
Stevie Steiber is a youngish American journalist working in South East Asia. Harry Field is a spy in the uniform of a British army major. Their love story is set among the British colony in 1940 Hong Kong, soon to be over-run by the Japanese.

Much depends upon the reader accepting the portrait of the volatile opium-smoking Stevie: volatile to the point of violent swings of character in a few seconds, arrogantly offensive then penitent. The basis of her initial relationship with the Chinese publis
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing
I read an uncorrected proof copy with a plainer - and much nicer - cover than the final version. I only spotted one odd line break, and there seemed to be fewer typos and punctuation errors than many final editions, but I didn't look at it with a proof-reader's eye, so if there were others that snuck through to the 'real' edition, it's not my fault!

Anyway, I thought there were some evocative descriptions of Hong Kong and Shanghai, but I couldn't sympathise with the main characters. The heroine's
Jo Weston
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
A good read, if not a slightly predictable love story set against the extraordinary backdrop of what happened in Hong Kong during the war. But a page turner certainly with some interesting (non-love story) twists and characters. It flitted between being beautifullly written, utterly engaging, to being a bit Mills and Boon-esque in places. Unfortunately I had recently read "The Thread" by Victoria Hislop - and book extraordinary both for its back drop AND its love story - which makes this look a ...more
For Books' Sake
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
"The Harbour is Francesca Brill’s first novel and has all the appearances of a beach read. But of course, we don’t judge books by their cover, and rightly so – for this is both deeper and flatter than a beach read. Flatter? Yes, but I’ll go into that more in a bit. In an overcrowded market, Brill manages to write a romance set in 1940 and make it feel fresh.

Our protagonist is Stevie Steiber, an American journalist in Hong Kong who throws herself into in this new culture. Stevie, however, is very
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
A half hearted stab at orientalism before the American protaganist abandons her Asian lover(?) and falls for a British officer. She is not sterotyped but could have been mis-typecast as a free-wheeling opium smoking columnist. Subplots are taken up and abandoned along the way as if the author was trying to find something substantial to latch onto but never quite achieving it. It falls onto the Japanese to provide much evil and drama to liven what is pretty much a plodding narrativr and old fashi ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I so nearly stopped reading early on when one of the characters got out of a car 'unfolding his limbs like a sea anemone.' Oh, please!

However, it was a really good read. The characters all well-formed with twists and turns, maybe not so likeable at times but that all helps a novel along. I learned more about WW2 in Hong Kong than I had learned before and, although the romance running through it could be a little more Mills & Boon than I would have liked at times, I did enjoy this debut novel
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good story of life in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. Very real sometimes a bit harrowing, scandal, colonial attitudes and stiff upper lip seen through the eyes of an American Journalist married to a Chinese man and having an affair with a British Officer. I read it from cover to cover wanting to know what happened to them next. The essence of a good book is that you want to turn the page and find out what happens next. This book fulfils that.
Amy Lishman
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was primarily drawn to this book for its setting, Hong Kong. I'm glad I read it because of the places referred to and in some instances the author is able to capture the spirit of the age in the prose. But that's where my positive comments end unfortunately. It's a generic love story set in war time Hong Kong with weak character progression and a few dead ends. Had the potential for more intrigue.Very easy read.
Jul 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Having grown up inHong Kong and lived in China, I was really looking forward to this. Well researched despite a few errors eg fruit bearing peach trees in hong kong in January...but I felt the characters a bit flat, spoiler coming......... Why does Harry not look up the heroine when he returns to new York? Otherwise quite enjoyable.
Nikhil Sharathchandran
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the story of a romantic liaison between an American journalist and a Major in the British Army in Hong Kong during World War11. A good read, The contrast of the life before and the life after the Invasion is certainly well drawn and how short a time it takes for a developed, civilised society to simply break down and collapse is well documented.
Sara Gould
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tras un arranque un tanto peculiar al que me costó hacerme -por la escritura de la autora- me encontré una novela fantástica. La protagonista es genial y todo lo que tienen que sufrir tanto ella como el resto de personajes es tan triste que desgarra. Precioso.
Dec 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, fiction
I took longer than I wanted to read this only due to my chaotic life, but I did enjoy the storyline. Stevie was too much of a madam for me though certainly needing a good slap on occasions so my empathy wasn't 100% with her. However good tale and satisfying ending.
Paul French
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
A rather weak retelling of the Emily Hahn/Charles Boxer story from WW2 Hong Kong that repeats the rather unfounded story that Boxer collaborated. Not sure why all the names had to be changed?
E.b. Twyman
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
enjoyed this war 2
Hong Kong insight
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, moving, un-putdownable book - I was transported and totally immersed in the beautifully drawn characters, and gripping plot - Highly recommend it.
Patsy Cowley
Jul 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great insight into the occupation of Hong Kong. Although fiction, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Lets hope these kind of experiences are a thing of the past. A really good read.
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Gave up after 2 chapters.
rated it really liked it
May 19, 2014
Becky Lloyd
rated it really liked it
Feb 10, 2018
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