White Ghost Girls – Alice Greenway

A gorgeous cover, is it not? Unfortunately I wasn’t so taken by the story itself.

This novel has got a lot of critical acclaim, and certainly the prose is intriguing. Very vivid and evocative descriptions of Hong Kong in the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of the first person narrator, a girl of thirteen. She lives there with her fourteen year old sister and their mother while their father is off for six weeks at a time in Vietnam. He takes photographs for one of the big papers, and he loves his work. He loves Vietnam.

So you have three women who live in a state of waiting. When he comes back to Hong Kong for short periods they must compete for his attention with each other, and with his dozens of friends.

You can see the tension and the conflict, the potential in terms of story. Greenway explores the relationship between the girls, and she does that well. But this is a thin novel, almost more of a novella, and there wasn’t enough meat on the bone. I was left feeling underfed, to carry that questionable metaphor just a tad too far.

However. If you are interested in the time and place, this novel will give you an interesting and unusual perspective on Vietnam.