The World Of Suzy Wong (Richard Mason)

(This post is for the guy who discovers that Miss Right has turned out to be Miss Wong)

I will own up to finding many Oriental names amusing: Ping, Pong, Wing, Wang etc. So, Ms Wong’s name cracks me up. What a classic title, whether for book or film, or stage play. Her infamous moniker conjours up images of seedy red light districts and STD clinics. Here its the novel I’m focusing on. Some 21st century snowflakes are horrified by this book, screeching how wacist it is because a western man wrote it. These SJW’s desperately search for evidence of ‘stereotypying’ ‘Yellow Fever’ ‘misogyny’ or ‘colonial attitudes’ – all wrapped up in Trotsky’s r word. These types of reviewers are the ‘hateful’ ones, not the author. They probably even object to the name of the friggin hotel much of the action takes place in.

Extremely well-written and thoughtful, it takes the reader to the streets of seedy Wan Chai, the sights and sounds of Nathan Road in the 1950s setting of Hong Kong. Robert Lomax, an aspiring British artist who relocates from Malaysia to Hong Kong, is the only long-term resident of Nam Kok Hotel, which is more of a brothel paid by the hour than a real hotel. Robert meets Suzie, a Chinese prostitute, who frequents the hotel bar and regularly rents the hotel with her sailor customers. Suzie becomes Robert’s muse, despite their relationship being platonic. Over a long and tedious process, with Suzie’s several “boyfriends” gracing the pages and adding more colour to the story line, they eventually fall in love.

Their romance is mired by a lot of complications, which provided a lot of texture to the story, making it more evocative. Mason’s character exposition made Suzie very endearing with her simplistic yet practical view of things. Suzie actually felt so real. The author also made a painstaking effort to provide richness in the other characters surrounding Suzie and Robert, including the other prostitutes that Robert has come to know during his stay at the Nam Kok. There is a beauty to the ability of Richard Mason to bring me into Hong Kong of the 1950s, the streets, neon lights and midnight feasts are so vividly expressed. I could almost taste the Pekin food, and the melon seeds. For the most part, I lived vicariously through the protagonist, visiting places with him I would normally never know and never have known.

I was actually hoping for some cheap exploitation but didn’t get any! This is a well-written Somerset Maugham-style love story that effortlessly crosses cultures and social strata in a way old writers could achieve. Its very easy to believe Suzie actually exists.  She often keeps her thoughts hidden, which enhances the drama in certain portions because we never really know what she is thinking or how she will act. Far from being a callous, shallow individual, she is a very complex and endearing woman. Mason’s descriptive writing style made the book a page-turner and a beautiful journey that the reader will enjoy with Suzie and Robert. This novel shows why sometimes writing is an art form in the right hands. It is a magical experience of love in its true colours. All the book asks for is too except it for what it is. 🙂

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