“…life worth living…”
Wordjazz for Stevie is Jonathan Chamberlain’s deep and moving tribute to his late eight-year-old daughter, a candid and beautifully written soliloquy born out of the pain of loss but conveying hope, love, happiness and insight.
Stevie arrives in the world when expat Jonathan and his Chinese wife are living on a quiet island off Hong Kong. Although shocked to learn Stevie has Down syndrome, Jonathan and Bern immediately accept the additional challenges this presents, challenges that increase significantly when an operation to close a hole in Stevie’s heart goes horribly wrong, starving her of oxygen and resulting in severe disability. Towards the end of Stevie’s short-but-delight-giving years, little does Jonathan know her failing health is not the only major life-changing event on the horizon.
Wordjazz for Stevie is a remarkable testament to the human spirit, friendship and integrity. Penned with fondness and gratitude, it will appeal to anyone who has faced hardship or prejudice, love and loss, or can relate to bureaucracy and social/cultural difference whether at home or abroad. But putting the textbooks aside, it’s simply a touching and enlightening story that should inspire all who read it.
And if you’re wondering why I choose this title for my review, I opened the book at random and this is what I saw.
Chris Thrall is the author of Eating Smoke: One Man’s Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong’s Triad Heartland– a bestselling true story
When men come back from war they bring the war back with them …
Having read two of Jonathan Chamberlain’s memoirs – King Hui about a Hong Kong playboy and Wordjazz for Stevie, a touching tribute to Jonathan’s late daughter who was born profoundly handicapped – I was really looking forward to reading ‘The Alphabet of Vietnam’ and seeing how Jonathan turns his hand to fiction. I was more than impressed. It is an exceptional piece of writing, well researched, one that explores the light and dark in every ‘man’s’ soul in a refreshingly unapologetic manner.
The story unfolds through a series of skillfully interwoven narratives: Two psychotic – or perhaps completely sane – Vietnam veterans who bring their sick war games home with them. A brother who comes to question all he believes in an attempt to do what is right. A return to modern-day Vietnam that explores US war crimes and the country’s rich history and culture through a series of cleverly though out vignettes.
‘And then there is love – and love is complicated …’
What a great book!
Chris Thrall is the author of Eating Smoke: One Man’s Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong’s Triad Heartland – a bestselling true story.
Jonathan Chamberlain has done history a great favour; filling in what for many a keen observer is a void in Hong Kong’s not-so-distant past.
In KING HUI, he preserves from the sands of time a story like no other; one that weaves its way through the Fragrant Harbour’s colourful colonial heritage; a rich tapestry as depicted by an aging ‘Peter’ Hui, a man that at one time owned all the opium in Hong Kong.
“. . . Scandal and corruption, drugs and pirates, triads and flower boats; the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and the Communist takeover of Canton. Peter Hui was there. He knew everybody and saw everything. This is the real story of Hong Kong, told with the rich flavours of the street . . .”
How true the backcover blurb! But this story is so much more. It’s an invitation into the psyche of the Chinese mind. It’s where East accommodates West, then fellow East, then West again. It’s a rare insight into Hong Kong’s idiosyncratic culture and meteoric rise to become the trading capital of the world, as told, rather refreshingly, from the straight-talking perspective of a local witness and without an Orientalist agenda.
It’s the story of Peter Hui – revered kung fu fighter, slickly dressed entrepreneur, handsome womaniser, gambler, drinker; friend of the rich, the famous, the powerful . . . as well as the destitute, the deviant and the downright dangerous. But most of all it’s a touching story, told with candour and flavoured with nostalgia, from the heart of an endearing old man; one who no doubt realises he is not long left for this world and has a tale he believes should to be told . . .
. . . and when you’re compelled to read the last page of this book again and again as I was, head spinning with thoughts and emotions brought to bear by the life of someone you’ve never even met, you fully appreciate why Jonathan Chamberlain is best placed to tell it.
Chris Thrall is the author of Eating Smoke: One Man’s Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong’s Triad Heartland
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