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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Hungry Ghosts

I'm currently reading Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry. Lots of different narrators - but at least it's made clear who is doing the talking - including a ghost. It is a book which is not for the squeamish, though there are only sporadic unpleasant scenes which you could probably read with your eyes half shut and miss out the worst bits. It is well written and is about the family of a British diplomat stationed in Hong King before the handover - well so far it's before the handover. The British in general do not come out of it in a very good light.

The Safford family seem an ill assorted collection - mother Myrtle, father Ralph and children Jillian, Nicola, Harry and Alice. Jillian and Nicola seem to think about nothing but boys and sex and tart is probably too polite a description of both of them. Alice is a little strange - almost fey - and Harry is a glutton.

Alice is taken over by the ghost of a murdered Chinese girl for reasons which aren't made clear - up to page 200 that is. It is an intriguing story which would not have suffered if the nastier scenes had been left out or merely hinted at. So many writers these days seem not to have learnt the art of showing a nasty scene through one small object - splash of blood on a curtain or a wall say - or through someone's expression. To me this sort of writing is far more powerful than the blood and guts and let it all hang out style of so many modern novels.

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