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Richard Mason (2) (1919–1997)

Author of The World of Suzie Wong

For other authors named Richard Mason, see the disambiguation page.

7+ Works 456 Members 7 Reviews

Works by Richard Mason

The World of Suzie Wong (1957) 281 copies
The Wind Cannot Read (1946) 86 copies
The Fever Tree (1962) 31 copies
A Town Like Alice [1956 film] (1956) — Screenplay — 28 copies
The Shadow and the Peak (1949) 21 copies
The Body Fell on Berlin (1943) 7 copies
Angel Take Care (1947) 2 copies

Associated Works

The World of Suzie Wong [1960 film] (2004) — Original novel — 18 copies

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Common Knowledge

Other names
Lakin, Richard
Birthdate
1919-05-16
Date of death
1997-10-13
Burial location
Rome, Italy
Gender
male
Nationality
UK
Birthplace
Manchester, England, UK
Place of death
Rome, Italy
Places of residence
Hong Kong
Rome, Italy
Education
Bryanston School (Dorset)
Short biography
Richard Mason (16 May 1919 – 13 October 1997) was a British novelist.

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Reviews

I was fossicking about in a Classic DVD section and stumbled across a copy of this 1956 film based on Neville Shute's novel of the same name, starring Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch.

This is a fictional story of a group of British women and children civilian prisoners in Malaya in the Second World War, and an Australian soldier who helps them. Actually quite a powerful film, especially when you consider it was filmed only 11 years after the war.

Neville Shute always intrigued me as an author - immensely popular in the 1950's and 60's he appears to have faded into seeming obscurity with the passing of the years. He left Britain after the war and moved to Australia, settling not far from where I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula. I first encountered his work at high school when I read 'On the Beach'.

Likewise, Peter Finch is an Australian actor who has seemingly faded from view with the passage of time, and probably worth the time finding some more movies in which he starred.

Filmed on location in Malaya, Australia and the ubiquitous Pinewood Studios, England. DVD release by ITV studios.

Recommended if you can find a copy.

- Copy Purchased by the Reviewer, JB-Hi Fi, Brighton $A19.
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Bushwhacked | Jan 1, 2022 |
Of Richard Mason's other novels, I have only read The World of Suzie Wong, but it makes for some good comparisons with The Wind Cannot Read. Of course, there is the similarity between the two sets of protagonists, the somewhat misplaced Asian woman, in this case, Sabby, a Japanese woman marooned in India during World War II. There is also the hero, a Briton unmoored in Asia, with Michael Quinn, in this novel, being an RAF airman recovering in Bombay from wounds received on the retreat out of Burma. And stylistically you can also see that Mason has a tendency to cocoon his characters. Most often literally into each others' arms and in exotic locales.

And that brings up another matter. Mason has a good sense of atmosphere in his two books. But usually he comes about it indirectly, almost tangentially. Rarely does he paint outright descriptions of his places. Rather, the feel of houses, cities, trains, and hotels emerges as a reflection of his characters' desires. There are a couple of exceptions, the visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal and Quinn's capture by the Japanese in Burma during the last third of the story.

The latter part of the book might be the best. For not only do the confines of the jungle seem to strangle and starve Michael, they also have something of the same effect on the reader. As with many good writers, Mason creates the conditions for urgency that overwhelm the senses along with the physical obstacles in Quinn's path. Along the way, Mason also does something remarkable for a novel written barely one year after the conclusion of World War II. His description of his Japanese captors often allows them to be humanized. Yes, the brutal side is there. But so is the experience of the wartime Japanese soldier simply drafted into a situation he has no control over. In doing this, Mason anticipates similar efforts that would not take place in literature and cinema until a decade or more later.

Then, there is Sabby herself. The wartime romance between a British officer and a Japanese woman being depicted in a 1946 novel must have created a challenging situation in the minds of many readers for whom Japan's wartime atrocities were still a fresh memory. Yet if the story of Sabby and Michael is at the heart of The Wind Cannot Read, it is also a weak point. Simply put, Sabby doesn't have much to say or think about other than doting over Michael. Because of that, she seems shallow, if not trivial. Even the brief exchanges between Michael and his Japanese captors have more depth. Mason has a gift for dialog involving repartee. He is at his best when it is between Michael and other soldiers in the zone of war. But for some reason, he can't carry this over into the conversations between Michael and Sabby. It's something he did manage to perfect in Suzie Wong, which makes that latter novel something of a masterpiece.

Finally, note that there is a filmed version of this novel, made in 1958, with Dirk Bogarde and Yoko Tani. It's largely successful in adapting the atmosphere of the novel. This is due in no small part because of the significant photography made on location in India. Alas, the film stumbles at the end. This melodrama is turned into saccharine soap opera. So much so that it's almost painful to watch. Mason had the ability in the novel, however, to put a harder edge on things. His conclusion doesn't disappoint. It has a philosophical bent to it. The wider vista of life yet to be lived conflicts with the lingering sense of sorrow, each trying to win permanency in the soul.
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PaulCornelius | 1 other review | Apr 12, 2020 |
A blurb on the back cover of my copy of The World Suzie Wong compared it to the work of W. Somerset Maugham. This is a dreadful mistake. About the only similarity between Suzie Wong and the works of Maugham is that Suzie's protagonist, Robert Lomax, starts out on a Malayan rubber plantation. From that plantation he moves to Hong Kong to pursue an interest in painting. And, here, Mason creates a work of fiction that is of Hong Kong, not just set in Hong Kong. That is the difference. Maugham's work, often focused on British colonial administrators in the Far East, used his exotic settings as mere backdrops. They never intertwined into the nature of his characters. Suzie Wong does. It focuses on the world of non-expats, the world of bar girls, "coolies," shop owners, rickshaw drivers, and hotel clerks. As such, it separates itself from Maugham's universe in a fashion much more similar to Conrad's work on pieces such as Almayer's Folly or Lord Jim.

Finally, I have come to this novel late. It has been many, many, many years since I first saw the film version, with Nancy Kwan and William Holden. And the images from the film still are fresh in my mind. But so good is Mason's writing in Suzie Wong, that I soon had those images driven from my mind by the very real world of 1950s Hong Kong he creates in the novel's pages. As such, the novel maintains its own vitality and, in the end, somewhat desperate desire to see how Suzie and Robert's lives played out after the final page.
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PaulCornelius | 3 other reviews | Apr 12, 2020 |
I enjoyed this book. The author wrote a good story with some nice philosophical points in the text. The characters are likeable and believable.
 
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StevenJohnTait | 3 other reviews | Jul 29, 2019 |

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