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The Hong Kong Letters

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In 1969, at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, a yacht sails out of Hong Kong and disappears. The world’s press takes up the story of the crew who are presumed lost at sea. But Gill and her friends are very much alive, held captive in a Chinese fishing village by Communist militia. As she faces questioning by the People’s Liberation Army, there’s a lot that Gill would rather not tell – that her crew-mates are British soldiers; her flatmates are Japanese, old adversaries of the Chinese; or that her boss, the doyen of advertising in Hong Kong, is well known for ‘firing Reds’.

In this spirited memoir, where Mad Men meets Han Suyin’s A Many Splendoured Thing, Gill recreates a Hong Kong of the imagination. Twenty-one, attractive and naïve, wined and dined by Hong Kong’s elite, Gill learns to stand her ground at her job in an advertising agency under the directive of the narcissistic Mrs Church. Her luck changes when Paddy O’Neil-Dunne joins the firm – he is just as eccentric but much more fun. After several visits to a casino in the nearby Portuguese enclave of Macau, Paddy embarks on the longest roulette game ever played and he insists Gill join in. But Gill finds the sparkling waters of Hong Kong’s seascape more seductive than the world of business and money; she takes up sailing and falls in love.

The backdrop is a gift. The Colony is an anachronism, a last vestige of British colonialism. Yet as Communist ideology gathers pace in neighbouring China, Hong Kong seizes every new opportunity and so does the author. Unexpected twists and a host of funny, bizarre and whimsical events are captured in her lyrical memoir.

Carefully bundled and tied together with ribbon, Gill’s letters from Hong Kong had remained untouched for nearly fifty years. When she untied them, she remembered her father’s words: “I think there’s a book in there.”

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SKU: 978-988-79638-5-1 Categories: , Tags: ,

Description

In 1969, at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, a yacht sails out of Hong Kong and disappears. The world’s press takes up the story of the crew who are presumed lost at sea. But Gill and her friends are very much alive, held captive in a Chinese fishing village by Communist militia. As she faces questioning by the People’s Liberation Army, there’s a lot that Gill would rather not tell – that her crew-mates are British soldiers; her flatmates are Japanese, old adversaries of the Chinese; or that her boss, the doyen of advertising in Hong Kong, is well known for ‘firing Reds’. In this spirited memoir, where Mad Men meets Han Suyin’s A Many Splendoured Thing, Gill recreates a Hong Kong of the imagination.

Carefully bundled and tied together with ribbon, Gill’s letters from Hong Kong had remained untouched for nearly fifty years. When she untied them, she remembered her father’s words: “I think there’s a book in there.”

MEDIA ATTENTION

A lost friendship blossoms again, 45 years on: Takako Comber, 91, and Gill Shaddick, 72, shared an apartment in Hong Kong in the late 1960s. They lost touch with each other, but four years ago discovered they had both moved with their families to Australia – The Sydney Morning Herald

Additional information

Weight390 g
Dimensions150 × 225 mm
Pages

244

Binding

Paperback

About the author

Gill Shaddick (nee Stevenson) left Britain aged twenty-one to take up a job in Hong Kong. She travelled from England on the Trans-Siberian Railway and then by Russian boat down the China coast to Hong Kong.

Those experiences in the 1960s awakened a wanderlust that has remained insistent throughout her life and kept her travelling. She met her husband in a township in Zambia. Together they embarked on a peripatetic journey living in a dozen countries. They counted cotton bollworms in Egypt, Sudan and Iran, tagged eels in New Zealand, owned a fishing business on Lake Kariba in central Africa and ran a rabbit farm in one of Scotland’s remotest corners. Their four daughters, each a constant source of joy, amusement and awe, were all born in different countries.

Gill has travelled to Afghanistan as a volunteer, worked on an organic farm in Nepal, visited Tibet, Borneo, Morocco and travelled extensively in Europe and south-east Asia, solo and with her daughters.

In 2018, Gill flew to Shanghai to visit the sights that she had heard about first-hand from “old China hands” who she had worked with in Hong Kong. From there she took a train from Beijing to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and on to Moscow to finish her journey in the city from where she had set out by train for Hong Kong exactly 50 years before.

She is a distant cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson. His grandfather’s clock ticked out the hours as she grew up, which she credits as one reason why, from an early age, she was enchanted by travel and writing.

Gill settled in Sydney, where she now lives with her husband. She is currently working on a new manuscript about her life in Africa. The Hong Kong Letters is her first book.

www.gillshaddick.com