Friday, June 3, 2011



A businesslike woman in Hong Kong loses her family and has to navigate a world of money, corporate deals and new men while figuring out what she actually wants.


This is the second work by Hong Kong-based author Xu Xi that I have read since I moved here. HABIT OF A FOREIGN SKY takes place in Hong Kong, New York, Shanghai and the skies in between. Gail Szeto is a no-nonsense businesswoman orchestrating the merger of two international investment banks. She keeps a tight reign on herself, and tries not to dwell on her family's humble (and shady) origins. When she loses each member of her family in quick succession, she finds herself unsure of what to do next.

Family is a major theme in this book, just as it is in Xu Xi's earlier novel, HONG KONG ROSE. Gail reconnects with her American half-brother, who is also a character in HONG KONG ROSE, and he reminds her of her painful past. For the first time in many years, she also associates with her mother's old friends from her dance hall days. Gail is a woman who is used to not needing anyone, but she finds that she relishes the connection with other people. This is a novel about softening and opening up to others in the midst of tragedy.

The story is intricate and complicated, just like real life. Xu Xi leaves loose ends and open questions, but she takes the reader through complex, modern relationships and circumstances with sharp assurance. She explores the world of international business deals and reveals the faces and messy lives behind those jet-setting power suits. She recreates the business and personal worlds of Hong Kong with uncanny insight. The writing style is confident and thorough, demonstrating Xu Xi's mastery of the craft of storytelling.

Xu Xi's website
My account of Xu Xi's talk at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival


I bought a paperback copy of this book at the HK Literary Festival (and had it signed). The list price on Amazon is currently $11.70 US.


Do you think that women have to be cold and controlled in order to be successful in the corporate world?

1 comment:

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