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Reviews of Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton

Ghost Girl, Banana

A Novel

by Wiz Wharton

Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton X
Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2023, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set between the last years of the "Chinese Windrush" in 1966 and Hong Kong's Handover to China in 1997, a mysterious inheritance sees a young woman from London uncovering buried secrets in her late mother's homeland in this captivating, wry debut about family, identity, and the price of belonging.

Hong Kong, 1966. Sook-Yin is exiled from Kowloon to London with orders to restore honor to her family. But as she trains to become a nurse in cold and wet England, Sook-Yin realizes that, like so many transplants, she must carve out a destiny of her own to survive.

Thirty years later in London, having lost her mother as a small child, biracial misfit Lily can only remember what Maya, her preternaturally perfect older sister, has told her about Sook-Yin. Unexpectedly named in the will of a powerful Chinese stranger, Lily embarks on a secret pilgrimage across the world to discover the lost side of her identity and claim the reward. But just as change is coming to Hong Kong, so Lily learns Maya's secrecy about their past has deep roots, and that good fortune comes at a price.

Heartfelt, wry and achingly real, Ghost Girl, Banana marks the stunning debut of a writer-to-watch.

One Hundred Miles Short of Heathrow's Second Runway

1977

From here, they descend at speed, her eardrums swelling like corn in a saucepan, pop, pop, pop. The world reappears through the oval of the window: toy cows glued onto Astroturf, a Blue Peter landscape of tinfoil lakes and cereal-carton houses. Her red sandals crush the crayons at their feet, rolling the lashes of wax into a puddle of long-cold gravy.

Not far now, the woman says. She has traveled with them and her face is kind, but she is not their mother. And what about their father? He is on the ground with the lakes and the cows. He is waiting on an oily tarmac. They have done wrong and he is their punishment. Remember this.

Her sister's hand grapples for hers beneath the blanket, the tiny nails scabby and fringed around their cuticles, and although the feeling disgusts her it is the only thing that seems familiar—that will continue to be familiar—for all the years to come. Remember this. Hold it close.

From ...

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Reviews

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While there is a mystery element involving the provenance of the inheritance, and dramatic tension heightened by betrayals, tragedy and threats of violence, Ghost Girl, Banana shines in the quieter moments of familial connection across decades and the fissure of life and death. It succeeds on the strengths of its characters. Sook-Yin is clever, ambitious, in some ways (the best ways) ferocious. Lily is funny, caustic to hide her vulnerability, loyal, relatably searching for meaning through a story she has been excluded from...continued

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Londoner Lily Chen descends into the maze of 1990s Hong Kong to piece together her late mother's secret past in this slow-burning mystery....Two complex histories are nested within one another, a testament to the mutually inextricable struggles of a mother and daughter who, in life, pass each other like two ships in the night.

Library Journal
A debut work of historical fiction with strong storytelling that readers of Lisa See, Jamie Ford, and Gail Tsukiyama will enjoy; book groups should appreciate this first novel and look forward to Wharton's future work.

Publishers Weekly
Despite a few muddled plot points, the pitch-perfect pacing and well-crafted protagonists will keep readers turning the pages. This is a writer to look out for.

Author Blurb Fiona Scarlett, author of Boys Don't Cry
A story of family, love, redemption and belonging, told with such heart and empathy. Wiz Wharton is a phenomenal talent, original, fresh, and with a pinpoint clarity to her prose that cuts right to the bone. She has created such a special book, with a story that needs to be told. Essential and utterly unforgettable.

Author Blurb Julie Owen Moylan, author of That Green Eyed Girl
Sparkling prose and a page-turning plot combined with wonderful storytelling ... An absolutely dazzling debut.

Author Blurb Kate Sawyer, author of The Stranding
Ghost Girl, Banana is an epic yet deeply intimate novel. I was rapt throughout, propelled by Wiz Wharton's taut, immersive prose. She swept me up in Sook-Yin and Lily's mirrored journeys of discovery, spanning decades and continents, but always I could feel the vibration of these women existing in the wider world; their stories are so skillfully shot through with the hum of change.

Author Blurb Nikki May, author of Wahala
An intriguing, beautifully written study of the stories we inherit. I loved being in Lily and Sook-Yin's heads, my heart breaking for them ... I loved it!

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Handover of Hong Kong

Ghost Girl, Banana takes place partly in Hong Kong in the summer of 1997, a setting intentionally chosen by the author for symbolic reasons, representing the inner conflict of the main character who is of Hong Kong descent but grew up in the UK, raised by her English father. This was the summer Hong Kong was "returned" to the rule of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from the British, who held the territory as a colony for 156 years.

British rule of Hong Kong began in 1842 after the First Opium War (one of a series of trade-related conflicts between Britain and China); Hong Kong Island was given to the British in a peace treaty signed by Queen Victoria and the Daoguang Emperor of China. In a treaty ending the Second Opium War in 1860,...

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Read-Alikes

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