Reviewed by Sam C. Ivy
What gave a seven-year-old British boy courage to explore the Hong Kong of 1952 in places where no foreign child belonged? Martin Booth felt safe among unusual friends during his adventures, because Chinese people believed rubbing his golden hair brought them luck.
Booth’s superb prose pictures brothels, opium dens, Chinese drug-lord friends, forbidden temples and also the wild life and flora in both Kowloon and Hong Kong. Often lonely, Martin’s independence was encouraged by correspondence and gifts from his grandfather in England. He never told his parents the extent of his explorations into forbidden and dangerous areas.
The boy also endured the hostilities between his bigoted, bureaucrat father, a man who never quite succeeded, and his out-going mother who was fascinated by China.
The author calls himself a “curious, somewhat devious, adventurous and street-wise child whose heart never left Hong Kong” after his father’s job sent them back to England four years later.
Not long after he wrote Golden Boy for his children, the author died of a brain tumor. He lived only a few years longer than a Chinese fortune-teller had predicted during his early years.
Anyone who likes biography, history, adventure, China and beautifully written literature will enjoy this book.