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City of Broken Promises (Echoes: Classics of Hong Kong Culture and History) [Paperback]

Austin Coates
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 11, 2009 9622090761 978-9622090767

The city is Macao, the Portuguese settlement on the China Coast, as it was more than 200 years ago. This moving novel that captures the time and place so convincingly is a historical reconstruction of the years 1780 to 1795 and the lives of Martha Merop and her English lover are unique in this period.

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Editorial Reviews


"This magnificent novel brings to vibrant life an exceptional period in the evolution of a great Asian trading city, vividly evoking the unique hybrid culture that developed there." -- David Brookshaw, Professor of Portuguese, University of Bristol

About the Author

Austin Coates (1922--97), a former senior British civil servant in Hong Kong, Malaya, and Sarawak, left government service at age forty to pursue a professional writing career. Widely regarded as the most distinguished English-language author in Hong Kong,

Product Details

  • Series: Echoes: Classics of Hong Kong Culture and History
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hong Kong University Press (August 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9622090761
  • ISBN-13: 978-9622090767
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Clearly this book has not had the attention it deserves. As one who traded in Hong Kong for many years, this book helped ease me into the cultural conflicted days of Britain opening China for its trade; tea and opium. This woman's ability to turn a dispicable personal situation into a success is worthy of anyone's attention interested in the history of these two cultures, both assuming to be the center of civilization at that colorful time.

This is one of my favorite books of all time because it tells of overcoming irreversible adversity to forgive and succeed over it all. Set in Macao in the 1780-90s, it is the life story of a Chinese woman Martha Merop "who came with the house" and was the property of the son of the first Chairman of Lloyd's of London. Abandoned at birth, sold into prostitution, she became the richest woman on the China Coast and Macao's greatest bunlic benefactress. I manufactured in Hong Kong for twenty years and this was the book everyone read. I corresponded with Coates but never met him before he retired to Portugal and died in 1997. He as the son of the English composer Eric Coates.

Frederick R. Andresen, Author of "Walking on Ice, An American Businessman in Russia," over sixteen years in Russian business, six years in residence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Coates is one of those colonial Brit types, who is probably most famous for his book Myself a Mandarin. He's the son of Tin Pan Alley composer Eric Coates, and an interesting writer about Asia and Asians. While he usually writes non-fiction (his books include histories of the Whampoa docks, the rubber trade, the Hong Kong telecommunications industry, Macau in the good old days, etc.), this is his attempt at a novel set in 18th-century Macau.
As a novel, you could easily do better. But if you want to hear someone tell a story of Old Macau, at a time when Hong Kong was still part of San On county in the Qing government, you have no other choice. Since none of the 20th Century's great authors have taken an interest in Macau, Coates currently claims the land for himself. The story is quite romantic. It's also quasi-historical, in that the main female protaginist was an actual person. Coates draws on his extensive research of Macanese history to flesh out the plot.
Again, for someone who wants to be whisked away to this far-off time and place, Austin Coates is your best (and only) choice.
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