LocalHood book club: Kowloon Tong (and why it was a terrible book)


A lovely review by one of our contributing writers, who at this time does not wish to be named or mentioned. Only him and his foul-mouthed opinion.

So it has admittedly been a while since I’ve read a book, I often find myself rereading the fiction from my childhood, maybe it’s because I’m an arrogant son of a gun that doesn’t believe any story under the sun is new, and to further that shtick of egotism I believe that the books of my more formative years cannot be outdone.

And that’s not without reason, I really did try you know? And that’s what counts right? Shit I even dipped my hands into the cesspool of mainstream with whatever novels and authors were fortunate enough to enjoy their time in the limelight. Speaking of Twilight, I did actually pick up the first book and realized that the only thing that it was good for was bound toilet paper. I’m sorry Mr. Potter but you kind of belong there too. Both I read as Chicken soup for the soul: The preteen edition. I then went onto what the other kids were reading throughout my late teens and early twenties, you know, ‘heavier’ ‘intellectually stimulating’ books. Well done Dan Brown, you wrote a comic book series for adults, Mr. Clancy, no one calls people ‘bad guys’ anymore and Ms. Gilbert, we clearly have a failure to communicate as to why I should be buying your new age soulless soul search of a novel given the fact that you seem to believe that money can fix everything in a non western country. So because you asked for it, here's my opinion.

However, my problems with this book stem from the fact that 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 in which there is the same sense of colonial cynicism towards the idiotic, ungrateful people they, the British, are out to save.

I wanted to read this because Theroux is a good writer and the book was well received upon its arrival in 1998. And, because I have ties 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 all kind of jerks and pretty damn 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 even sorry I read it.

"Kowloon Tong is a novel by Paul Theroux about Neville "Bunt" Mullard, an English mummy's boy born and raised in Hong Kong. The story is set in the days leading up to the handover to China of Hong Kong from the British." - Wikipedia

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