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White Ghost Girls Paperback – January 5, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; First Printing edition (January 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170187
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,951,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For all its dreamy lyricism, this debut novel about two teenaged American sisters growing up in Hong Kong one summer boasts a satisfyingly complicated plot and a devastating conclusion. While their father is away photographing the war in Vietnam for Time magazine, 13-year-old Kate, the book's now adult narrator, and her big sister, Frances, revel in the simple life of Pok Fu Lam village. They swim in the harbor, dive for sea slugs and urchins, and listen to housekeeper Ah Bing's intense folk wisdom. ("Having babies is hard and sore," she tells them. "If you die, your spirit will sit in a pool of blood.") Their mother, on the other hand, spends her time pining for their absent father and painting watercolors that picture grassy western knolls. As Frances grows wilder that summer, Kate is forced to look more closely at their father's growing addiction to war reporting and their mother's lack of engagement with her surroundings and her family. Meanwhile, Vietnam, the Maoist cultural revolution and Frances's budding adulthood all threaten the "shipwrecked" sisters' intimacy. Along with death and sex, Greenway makes the illicit excitement of war and the sisters' opposing natures inextricably entwined. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School Kate and Frankie are American girls growing up in Hong Kong during the summer of 1967. Their father, a war photographer for Time magazine, can visit from Vietnam only sporadically. In the political turbulence of Mao's China and the United States's involvement in Vietnam, Hong Kong is hardly a safe haven, and their mother, overwhelmed by reality, retreats into the isolation of her painting. The sisters are supervised primarily by their amah, and when they decide to escape Ah Bing's watchful eye and explore the marketplace on their own, the consequences are devastating and far-reaching. As the summer progresses, Frankie becomes more and more reckless, and Kate must confront her ambivalence about her role as keeper of secrets and protector for her older sister. The author does a lovely job of exploring their relationship. Her sensuous prose evokes lush landscapes and languid afternoons. She masterfully interweaves peaceful physical beauty with the savage turmoil of war and paints an enthralling picture of the different ways that each family member responds to encroaching chaos. Despite the relatively short length of the novel, it is not a choice for reluctant readers, but teens who are interested in a different perspective on the Vietnam War era and enjoy being immersed in Eastern culture will find much to appreciate in Greenway's first novel. Kim Dare, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

I found this story sad.
Casey Wade
I agree - that part was true, but the only reason I gave it a 3 was that it just didn't go over big at all with my club.
K. Riddle
The reader's every sense is engaged, thanks to a poetic and lushly detailed description of the exotic setting.
Bookreporter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Isabelle Rzehulka on March 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a jewel of a book. From the first paragraph I was drawn in by Greenway's beautifully light and succinct language. Having lived in Hong Kong myself, I could instantly see, smell and hear the mystical atmosphere of the former colony. But "White Ghost Girls" evokes Hong Kong's role as a sensuous backdrop even for those readers who don't know the city. The beauty of the book lies in its shortness. Every phrase is written, every word is chosen with extraordinary talent. The wonderfully poetic language might be perceived as inconsistent with the cruel and heartbreaking events that take place. Yet, it is essential to portray the fragile paradise in which the girls live their carefree lives as well as their relationships to their dreamy yet neglectful mother and their warphotographer father - all of which inevitably leads to disaster. "White Ghost Girls" is both a haunting story of two American teenage sisters experiencing an excruciating incident that changes their life forever, as well as an artistic portray of the cultural, political and social Hong Kong during the Vietnam War. I savored every single page.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By readermomamoma on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
I LOVED this book. The language of the author is so beautiful- it feels like poetry. It is also very sensual- I could feel all of my senses participating in this book. Having never been to Hong Kong, I feel like I have experienced this city because of how beautifully this book is written. Not only was the book carefully crafted by its author in terms of its sensual descriptions, but the characters she created were compelling as well. Kate was someone I liked and Frankie was too- even with their flaws. I wanted so badly for things to be different for these girls (through the course of the story), but I was satisfied with how things ended. A beautifully crafted book with a good story and human characters- what more could a reader ask for?
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Loves to Read on December 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What I liked best about this book is the way the author could describe how someone is feeling in the most understandable terms. What I didn't like about this book is sometimes I wanted more information. The author would write about an island or a beach or some location. But I am not familiar with Hong Kong or Vietnam so I didn't know where it was or if it was 10 minutes away or 6 hours. Also sometimes she would write of items that I didn't know about -- for example lychee fruit -- what does it look like? what does it taste like? do you peel it? etc. Sometimes I couldn't visualize the details in my imagination. But I did love the variety of characters and the rich descriptions of their feelings. It was a nice short book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Riddle on September 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
I picked this book for our book club (end of last year) and had searched and searched for the 'perfect' book. What drew me to the book were the vivid descriptions the book was supposed to have. I agree - that part was true, but the only reason I gave it a 3 was that it just didn't go over big at all with my club. Our of 8 members, only one really liked it. No one else really 'got' the story, though it is hauntingly and beautifully written. I felt bad because I so wanted to pick a book everyone would just swoon over and they just gave me weird looks.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Palus on October 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has some beautiful passages, but it never grabs you with a good story or with characters that you want to learn more about. We read it for book club, and about 30% of the group loved it for its lyricism...but the rest of us, while respecting the skill with which it was crafted, were apathetic to the story. And it's the story that brings me to a book and keeps it on my mind. If it weren't for book club, I would not have finished it, honestly.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
American adolescent Kate and her sister Frankie live with their mother in Hong Kong. It is the summer of 1967; their father is mostly away, photographing scenes from the Vietnam War for Time magazine. Through their father's stories and photographs, and also through newspaper articles, the Vietnam War is constantly and immediately present to Kate and Frankie, forming both a backdrop to their lives in Hong Kong and a rival for their father's attention.

The atmosphere is sultry. Twelve-year-old Kate and older sister Frankie swim in the ocean and play on the beach. One day while swimming, a dead Chinese woman floats up out of the water. That shocking sight changes the girls, marking the end of their innocence.

Hong Kong is full of unrest, with Red Guards planting bombs to encourage the British to leave. There is anarchy in Canton, resulting in corpses in the streets and washing up onto the beaches. With Kate's father gone six weeks at a time, her mother Marianne yearns to protect her daughters, all the while feeling vulnerable. However, Marianne's protective nature is hindered by her profound naiveté and a tendency toward denial.

The two girls differ. Frankie is voluptuous, dark and strong; Kate is small, slight, asthmatic and blonde. Their personalities are also dissimilar. Frankie is a daredevil, verging on being out of control; Kate is quiet and takes the time to notice the details of her life.

One day the girls are in the marketplace with Ah Bing, their nanny/housekeeper. Frankie persuades Kate to slip away to watch the Red Guards' demonstration. When the police arrive, the girls try to return to Ah Bing, but two rough men grab them. One holds Frankie; the other orders Kate to take a heavy bag, supposedly containing lychee fruit, to the police.
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