Author: Paul Blaney
Publication date: December 1, 2012
E-book formats: ePub, Kindle, PDF
Word count: 36,000
Price (e-book): US$5.99
It’s 1997 and three very different expatriate Britons are living and working in Hong Kong. Sally, a sophisticated, thirty-something magazine editor, finds her life plagued by a ruthless bully. Tess, an idealistic young graduate, embarks on an unlikely office romance. And Rob, the most recently arrived of the three, is haunted by an enigmatic ex-lover. As the date of the Handover draws closer, and each of the three falls further under the spell of their adopted city, their lives criss-cross and start spinning out of control. July 1st, dawn of the reunification with mainland China, will find one in prison awaiting trial for armed assault, one in disillusion and deep denial, and the third floating face-down in the waters off Macau. Handover, a vivid, cinematic new novella by Paul Blaney, writer in residence at Rutgers University, peels back the skin of expatriate Hong Kong to uncover vengeance, betrayal, and madness.
Blaney’s cubist portrait of the Hong Kong expatriate community reminds me, in its daring and intricacy, of David Mitchell’s overlapping narratives in Ghostwritten. The compelling individual storylines are
charged with sexual tension, yet also deftly woven into a kaleidoscopic whole larger than the sum of its parts.
– Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl, Equal Love, and The Ugliest House in the World
This wonderfully rich novella is composed of three stories, linked together by one event: the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from the UK to the PRC on July 1, 1997. The end of British colonial rule can be felt in the lives of the novella’s three British protagonists — who have moved to Hong Kong for their own obscure, imagined, and self-absorbed reasons – and who are not faring very well, to say the least. I don’t want to give the plot away, since one of the great pleasures of reading this novella depends on gradually becoming aware of what’s happening in their lives. Each story is shocking. The characters are remarkably well-realized, and the setting is vividly alive. I couldn’t put the book down — but when I finished, I felt as if I had been in Hong Kong’s secret places. Blaney is a great writer, who shows that the post-colonial transition can be felt as both anticlimactic and cataclysmic at the same time.
– Carolyn Best, Chair of the English Department at Rutgers, New Brunswick