Anne Berry - The Hungry Ghosts (3 stars)

Anne Berry - The Hungry Ghosts

(Blue Door)


Don’t be fooled by the title: The Hungry Ghosts is more family drama than spooky story. Yet its epoch-hopping tale – in which brutally murdered Lin Shui hangs on to the scraps of life by latching her spectre onto Alice Safford, the misunderstood daughter of a high-ranking British official in colonial Hong Kong – is told with striking narrative ingenuity by first-time novelist Anne Berry.

The vivid, sensory depictions of Hong Kong circa 1970 ignite this almost unrelentingly sad story, and Berry’s easy way of switching between different narrative voices from chapter to chapter is impressive. But the book’s downfall is ultimately caused by its two central characters with the dynamic between Lin Shui and Alice only vaguely conveyed and lacking a genuine quality. Nevertheless, the venomous, spiteful behaviour that characterises Alice’s relationships with her mother and siblings propels the book bleakly forward. Haunting stuff, though no thanks to its spectral protagonist.

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