For Neville "Bunt" Mullard and his mother, Betty,
Hong Kong is part of Britain -- one of the
pleasanter parts; it is also cozy, monotonous,
proftable and homely. It is big breakfasts and high
tea and bad weather, the race meetings at Happy
Valley, the roast beef at Fatty's Chophouse, and,
for Bunt, the "blue hotels" of Kowloon Tong, where
he eats his packed lunches and sometimes rents a
room by the hour with a girl. Now ninety-nine years
of colonial rule are about to end, and the British
government is about to hand over Hong Kong to China.
Betty and Bunt can see China from their parlor, but
they have never been there. They detest Chinese
food. "The Chinese take-away" as they call the
hand-over, does not particularly concern them.
When Bunt first meets Mr. Hung, a well-spoken
gentleman from the Chinese mainland, he pays him
little heed. And when Mr. Hung offers the Mullards a
handsome sum for their family business -- a
fifty-year old textile factory, Imperial Stitching,
that was cofounded by Bunt's late father -- Bunt
refused him out of hand. Yet it soon grows clear
that Mr. Hung is different from the Chinese the
Mullards have lived alongside for years. For Mr.
Hung will accept no refusals.
Then a young woman from the Mullards' factory
vanishes, one of many disappearances. But this one
is different. Ah Fu has last been seen in the
company of Mr. Hung. And so Bunt is forced for the
first time in his forty-three years to make
decisions that matter. He even begins, maybe, to
discover love. Yet against all of Bunt's good, if
half formed, intentions are pitted the will of Mr.
Hung and the looming threat of the ultimate
betrayal. With incisively observed characters and
perfect prose, in Kowloon Tong Paul Theroux has
created one of his finest novels.