The One in The Weird Maze of Hong Kong

Hon Lai Chu, The Kite Family (2015, Eng. 2016)

You can’t say I was lazy or fickle on this book. I tried hard, very hard. I had high hopes, because Hong Kong literature is not something that you often stumbled upon, and I have such fond memories of my years living there that I am often prejudiced in favor of any novel set in or written in Hong Kong. And this short story collection came with high credentials: it won the New Writer’s Novella first prize from Taiwan’s Unitas Literary Association and was named one of the Books of the Year by China Times in Taiwan.

Yet, I don’t do well with absurd. I don’t mind disturbing stories, I actually kind of enjoy magical realism, but I am a picky reader when it comes to surrealism. I just don’t get it, most of the times, unless I am able to care for the main characters.

I really enjoyed the book introduction by translator Andrea Lingenfelter, which highlighted some of the stories’ themes and allowed me to better understand some metaphorical meanings of the stories.

But still, few of them were really engaging to me. I had difficulties to relate to any character and to like them. One story’s main character is a guy that only finds his purpose in life as he becomes a chair. Another story features a family with a weird illness of obesity, to the point that the person will eat objects and that no room will be able to contain her body.

I was sorry to miss the point of most of these stories. Definitely this book is not for me, but probably will find other readers who are more tolerant with surrealism.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for offering me a copy in exchange for a honest review.

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2 thoughts on “The One in The Weird Maze of Hong Kong

  1. I started this book but could only get halfway through for the exact reasons you list – too surreal, couldn’t connect with the characters. With all the awards I thought maybe I was just not “getting it”, so it’s nice to see that I’m not alone. 🙂

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