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Hungry Ghosts Paperback – April 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her American fiction debut, Australian writer Johnson the author of four novels and a memoir offers a racy, intelligent tale of friendship and ambition. Rachel Gallagher and Anne-Louise Buchan, both aspiring artists who knew each other in high school, meet again while working for a fashion magazine in Sydney. Though they couldn't be more different Rachel is careful and proper, Anne-Louise carefree and irreverent they become close friends, going off to London together and staying in touch even when their lives diverge. While Anne-Louise is the artier (and less stable) of the two, Rachel turns out to be the artist, Anne-Louise becoming an administrator for a Hong Kong arts center and joining the enclave's "ghost," or non-Asian, community. Also in Hong Kong is Martin Bannister, a handsome and meticulously groomed futures trader, one of Hong Kong's "golden bachelors." Martin's past his runaway father, his spoiled and willful mother, his years in New Zealand have left him a cache of suppressed anger, which he unleashes in sadistic encounters in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Macao. In time, he crosses paths with Anne-Louise and then with Rachel, testing their friendship and their characters. Johnson narrates all this in forceful prose, swiftly summarizing her characters' lives. The tantalizingly short chapters shift point of view from Rachel to Anne-Louise to Martin. Rachel, who tells her story in the first person, becomes the most developed and complex of the three. Though Johnson veers dangerously close to melodrama (her good-looking men are always "dashing"), her crafty storytelling not to mention her unblinking descriptions of sadism keep the reader turning the pages of this lively novel.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

As the British colony of Hong Kong nervously prepares for its reunification with China, three expatriates (two Australians and one New Zealander) meet with devastating consequences. To the Chinese, all Westerners are "ghosts," and these young spirits drift through Hong Kong's crowded streets, haunted by their past and hungry for something more (love, sex, fame). Self-conscious and inhibited, Rachel Gallagher envies her friend Anne-Louise's exuberance and "talent for life," but Rachel has a successful career as a painter which pains Anne-Louise, whose own artistic ambitions have been thwarted by her psychotic breakdown. When both women fall in love with Martin Bannister, a handsome and troubled futures broker, tragedy is inevitable. Although the plot is predictable and the characters of Rachel and Martin are rather unsympathetic and cliched (she's wracked with self-pitying guilt, he's into S&M), Johnson's portrait of Anne-Louise's emotional self-destruction is finely drawn and heartbreaking. Wilda Williams, "Library Journal'
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (April 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743437772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743437776
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,195,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CT on July 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
A Fabulous book. I totally enjoyed the intense depth of this book. Initially, I was a bit taken aback by the sexual preverseness of one the characters but it was very well handled without being too graphic and matched the painful confusion of the novel's political setting and characters' personal conflicts. The author's style of writing was easy to read, very realistic yet, almost poetic and at the same time ... taking you on an emotional sweeping journey with the characters and through the recent political transitions of Hong Kong.
A Great style of writing not easily found in much of today's fiction; this should have been on the Best seller's list.
Looking forward to more of the same intensity and depth from this author. A must Read!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on May 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Bought this book solely by the recommendation on the jacket cover based on the quote from the UK Guardian "The best thing to come out of Australia since Peter Carey". Another positive statement on the inside cover, from the Who Weekly, "...combines emotional power with assured artistic polish", that clinched my decision to buy the book. Interested in other cultures, I had no idea, *not* a clue ... about the deeply disturbing subject matter of this book. A word to this wise, there are a few explicit disturbing descriptions of s*x*al perversion. Frankly, I would not have read this book had I known. Nothing in the title or cover descriptions (inside or outside) leads one to suspect. While I give it 5 stars for drama, suspense, characterization, artisic and creative writing, the author's extraordinairy ability to write about deep psychological problems ... still, I feel I was tricked into reading the book. However, as a reviewer, to new readers, I am upfront about its contents. Oddly enough, I do highly recommend this book,if one does not mind reading about this topic.
Rachel Gallagher and Anne-Louise Buchanan, two very different personalities who were born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, become best friends as they share similar artistic careers at a fashion magazine. They escape their mundane existence in Brisaben, to explore artistic career options in London, UK. Each gets odd jobs, one in a women's clothing store; the other as a waitress. They dreams of making it big in the world as famous artists. Oddly enough for one of these two, the dream comes true. The author alternates the stories and lives of each main character in subsequent chapters. We are first introduced to Martin James Bannister, a handsome stock broker and trader in Hong Kong.
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