The World of Suzie Wong successfully transported me to Hong Kong of the mid-1950s. It is both a great and easy read, if you are open to a melodramatic love story, with bits of emotional roller coaster ride.
I found this novel at Dymocks in Melbourne when I was visiting family last December. I didn’t have a lot of expectations and the only reason why I bought it (aside from it being on sale) was that the backdrop of the story is Hong Kong, one of my favorite cities in Asia.
As it turned out, The World of Suzie Wong was a beautiful surprise. Extremely well-written and thoughtful, it takes the reader to the streets of seedy Wan Chai, the sights and sounds of Nathan Road in the mid-century setting of Hong Kong.
Robert Lomax, an aspiring British artist who relocated from Malaysia to Hong Kong, is the only long-term resident of Nam Kok Hotel, which is more of a brothel paid by the hour. Robert meets Suzie, a Chinese prostitute, who frequents the hotel bar and regularly rents the hotel with her sailor customers. Suzie becomes Robert’s muse, despite their relationship being platonic. Over a long and tedious process, with Suzie’s several “boyfriends” gracing the pages and adding more color to the story line, they eventually fall in love.
Their romance is mired by a lot of complications, which provided a lot of texture to the story, making it more evocative.
Mason’s character exposition made Suzie very endearing with her simplistic yet practical view of things. Suzie actually felt so real. The author also made a painstaking effort to provide richness in the other characters surrounding Suzie and Robert, including the other prostitutes that Robert has come to know during his stay at the Nam Kok.
Overall, it is beautifully written, with powerful imagery of a dated Hong Kong. Mason’s descriptive writing style made the book a page-turner and a beautiful journey that the reader will enjoy with Suzie and Robert.
This book is one of my surprise favorites and I definitely recommend it!