26 September 2023

The Kowloon Kid: A Hong Kong Childhood

Start the conversation

Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Phil Brown, Transit Lounge, $29.99.

This paperback is more than “an exquisite love letter”. It is a ‘funny’ memoir of growing up in Hong Kong in the 1960s: a vibrant, reflective portrait of Brown’s childhood in a ‘highly developed territory’ and recent journeys to one of the world’s most lively cities.

Brown’s life begins in small-town Australia – Maitland NSW. In 1963 his father, Ted, hankers to return to the Hong Kong of his childhood and to cash in on a construction boom in the burgeoning colony.

Then under British rule, the world of Hong Kong is a truly fascinating place for gweilos or foreigners, both a colonial outpost and a region redolent with all the exoticism and contradictions of the Far East.

The Brown home, in the garden suburb of Kowloon Tong, overflowed with characters: the family’s amah, Ah Moy, frequent visitors such as the inscrutable Mr Lai, the spy-like Tony Parr, and family members such as Uncle Cyril. Not to mention the kid from across the road, Michael Hutchence.

The family portrait in the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ is nurtured as the author explores his childhood criterion of the Kowloon Cricket Club, the beach at Shek O and the bustling lanes of Kowloon.

From the first page of Chapter 1, wistful memories came flooding back about my stay at The Peninsula Hong Kong … a magnificent hotel.

Author of Travels with My Angst and Any Guru Will Do, Brown’s The Kowloon Kid is at times sensitive and evocative.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.