Garry Kilworth’s Tales From A Fragrant Harbour: Short Stories of Hong Kong and the Far East is the latest entry in the mythology of a certain “lost” land. He and his wife spent 4 years there prior to the turnover of power, and the stories also draw on similar experiences in overseas jobs in both Singapore and Malaysia. The title of the book is drawn from the meaning of ‘Hong Kong’ itself in Cantonese, and it’s clear the author got more of the flavor of this culture than any mere tourist. While some of the stories are told from the perspective of a foreign visitor looking down his nose at the native culture, it’s clear from others that Kilworth’s efforts to befriend and understand the Chinese with whom he lived and worked paid off in his writing.
I also recently received feedback from the author:
I would like to thank Kit O’Connell for a good, considered and lengthy review of my book of short stories. Too often these days reviewers do not read the book and give scant space to their reviews, good or bad. Kit obviously takes his work seriously and I shall look forward to reading some of his fiction.
However, I would like just gently to defend myself against the main criticism.
On the charge that there is an old fashioned and musty feel to the collection, it should be remembered that all these stories are over 20 years old, some are over 40 years old, and at least three were written over 50 years ago (albeit not published until later). They ain’t gonna be as sharp and state-of-the-art as a collection fresh from the pen. What I hoped the collection would do was gather to itself a flavour and feel of a lost time in a magical place.
With best wishes, Garry
It is great to know that the time I put into my reviews is appreciated. It seems that I was not entirely clear while reading this collection on the scope of time that the stories cover — not just in their settings but in their writing as well. I probably would have gone easier on some of them given a greater awareness of this fact. That said, Garry is right that the collection has a distinctive flavour — and one of the points I hoped to make in my review is that the old-fashioned feel actually works greatly to the advantage of many of the stories. I enjoyed this collection a great deal.