The One with Sex And The City of Hong Kong

Amy Cheung, Hummingbirds Fly Backwards (Eng. 2016, Cantonese 1995)

I don’t normally go to Netgalley to look for foreign books (which I usually read in French anyway), but when I saw the name of the author, distinctively Cantonese, and saw from the short line of bio that she was *not* Chinese-American but a popular writer in Hong Kong, I realized how few such titles are featured on Netgalley. And I also knew that it was high time I read this title and certainly, if possible, a few other Chinese books in the coming months.

I used to read a lot of Asian books but I fell off the bandwagon a few years ago, because they were harder to find and also nobody gushed about them on the Internet (in the English or French Internet, at least, and I don’t have a clue where to look for Chinese book-bloggers, if such thing exists). All this to explain how I was delighted to read this book translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie and published by AmazonCrossing. Hong Kong writers are so little known in the West, you see. Even in Asia, as other Asian capitals love to argue that Hong Kong is only a business place and not a place with soul.

Amy Cheung is apparently categorized in the romance category (see this Chinese article in English), but I’d rather put her firmly into chick-lit territory: her heroines are cheeky and spunky. They are fiercely independent and buy sexy lingerie for themselves, and if some thug tries to steal it from their balcony (imagine flats stacked by the dozens…) they aren’t afraid to hide and give him the fright of his life. They are both pragmatic and romantic and reminded me of the 4 friends of Sex in the City. I’ll let you guess you’d be the Carrie, the Charlotte, the Samantha and the Miranda (well, to start with they’re only 3, so my comparison only brings me so far), but you’ll probably have a better grasp of the book.

The lingerie bit is not a detail that I put here to attract dirty spammers, no (hell no!), it plays a role to highlight the freedom (financial, emotional) and the struggles of each of the women (insecurity about one’s body is universal). The main character, Jeoi, owns a lingerie shop, she reunites with an old friend who comes shopping there, and the story was originally published under the title 《三个A Cup的女人》(Three women who wear A-cup bras). AmazonCrossing decided that this title  in English would *not* attract the right kind of readers, and I totally see the point (I searched under this name and… oops, you don’t want to try, trust me). As other Cheung’s bestsellers, and if my Chinese skills are not too rusty (I would never manage to read novels in Chinese, but I grasp the overall meaning of Wikipedia articles), this novel has been serialized in a popular newspaper, but it doesn’t show in the final edition.

I may be biased because I had this strong nostalgia of Hong Kong places while I read it, and I don’t usually read romance books of any kind really (although my venture into Amish territory might qualify) but I enjoyed the trio of girls. Even if the book is not meant to be highbrow literature, these women may epitomize Hong Kong spirit as I understood it, a blend of Chinese and Western, and I am grateful that AmazonCrossing gave me a chance to discover that author and that book.

 

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One thought on “The One with Sex And The City of Hong Kong

  1. Wow – what a change from the original title to Hummingbirds Fly Backwards! LOL. I am glad you enjoyed this one – I agree, we need more Asian voices translated and published for American readers. Sounds like a fun summer read.

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