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The Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry

The Hungry Ghosts

by Anne Berry

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Despite being a slow starter and taking me a long time to bother finishing, it surprised me in a very positive way. I wish I had made the effort to read it all in one go! I suppose there is a bright side to having broken my kindle after all! ( )
  RoseyEm | Jul 14, 2016 |
Not sure what to make of this novel, even whether or not I actually enjoyed the experience! Yes, there is a ghost, but the plot is not quite what I was expecting - instead of a tragic story about Lin Shui, the young Chinese girl who is murdered, Hungry Ghosts is more about a dysfunctional English family living in Hong Kong, particularly the youngest daughter, Alice, whom Lin Shui bonds with. Not exactly The Lovely Bones, then, despite the tacking on of a ghost-baby, ghost-dog and ghost-budgie!

The various first person narratives, from the family and the assortment of ghosts, didn't work for me either, I'm afraid. Nobody thinks or talks in that faux-poetic style, and there were no distinguishable personalities from character to character. Myrtle the mother stood out, if only for being so dreadfully middle class and cold-hearted, and I quite liked Nicola's changing perspective, but otherwise I was unmoved. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Oct 4, 2012 |
The novel is set mostly in Hong Kong, where a young girl - an outsider in her family - lives with her distant parents, older sisters, and younger brother. Alice is clearly a disappointment to her family. Her father is caring but unable to articulate his feelings. Her mother is distant and emotionally abusive. She blames Alice for having to be subjected to another pregnancy in order to produce her precious only son.

There is also the problem of Alice's behaviour. While others might see her as a bit odd but merely inquisitive child, her family sees her as a troublemaker with emotional and mental issues that make their lives difficult. It certainly does not help mattes when Alice becomes haunted by the angry spirit of a young Chinese girl who was raped and murdered by a Japanese soldier about 20 years earlier.

The novel follows Alice and her ghost from her early teens till middle-age. The story is told in small chapters which all have different voices. This allows the reader to see all of the different facets of the events. Alice has a very different view, for example, of a medal ceremony they attended for her father than her mother does. There strong contrasts between the voices makes for a particularly engaging read.

I also found Alice's character to be fascinating. She was bright and interesting, but at the same time terribly insecure - likely due to her family. Her ghost was well-fleshed out as well, and I enjoyed the chapters told from the ghosts perspective. The other characters are hugely flawed, which make them rather interesting, and they place this family beside a less dysfunctional family to further demonstrate the abuses which are heaped on Alice.

There are several important twists in the story which I will not reveal, however I was satisfied with the conclusion. Some got what they deserved, others didn't. This is of course much like real life. ( )
  mrn945 | May 15, 2011 |
Quite a disturbing novel if 'hosts' bother you. Not my sort of novel however I did finish it to see what happend to Alice. ( )
  jhibburt | Mar 8, 2010 |
Beautifully described and evocative, this is the somewhat desolate but delicately told story of a dysfunctional family and how they fare in the final outpost of the Empire, Hong Kong, in the years prior to the handover.

Presented from several points of view, what makes this tale special is that one of the narrators is the ghost of a young fisher girl who was murdered by a Japanese soldier during the war.

The Hungry Ghost attaches herself to Alice, the unhappy daughter of a senior British official, and is joined by a retinue including the ghost of Alice’s aborted baby, her beloved dog, and a headless canary. Sad, poignant yet compelling, this literary novel is an impressive debut. ( )
1 vote adpaton | Aug 27, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007303386, Paperback)

A tale of both broad global events and intimate lives, this dazzling debut spans 60 years from British Hong Kong to Paris, England, and postcolonial Hong Kong
Alice Safford is a lost soul. Raised in Hong Kong by a monstrous mother and high-ranking father, she is neglected by her parents and indifferent siblings. Twenty-five years later during the Japanese occupation, Lin Shui, a young Chinese girl, was raped and murdered. Now, as a "Hungry Ghost," she finds the perfect host from whom to feed, returning with Alice to her home on the Peak. Together, entanged in the Saffords' web of dark secrets and desperate lies, they unleash chaos. Against a background of political unrest and familial breakdown, Alice's ghostly entourage swells alarmingly. Craving peace, she flees to England, then France, only to find her mischievous "Hungry Ghosts" have accompanied her. With its dazzling array of characters and numerous twists and turns in fortune, this remarkable tour de force of the imagination is full of instantly memorable characters whose lives intermesh and boil over in a cauldron of domestic mayhem, unleashing unworldly spirits into the troubled air.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Raped then murdered in Japanese occupied Hong Kong, 1942, Lin Shui's 'Hungry Ghost' clings tenaciously to life. Holing up in a hospital morgue, destined to become a school, just in time she finds a host off whom to feed. It is 12-year-old Alice Safford, the deeply-troubled daughter of a leading figure in government.… (more)

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