In 1975, journalist Ian Gill met up with his mother Billie in Hong Kong. He flew in from his home in New Zealand while she came from her home in Geneva. They hadn’t seen each other in a few years and Ian thought it would be just a chance to catch up with his mother. He had never visited Hong Kong and Billie hadn’t been back since World War II. Instead of a quiet holiday, Billie started introducing Ian to her old friends, friends she had known during the War. Ian knew very little about his mother’s years in China and Hong Kong, and what he began learning on that trip started to seem worthy of a book. And, as he would find, Billie and the people she knew in Shanghai and Hong Kong have already been the subject of a number of books. Now almost fifty years after that initial introduction to his mother’s past, Gill has published a family memoir, Searching for Billie: A Journalist’s Quest to Understand His Mother’s Past Leads Him to Discover a Vanished China. It’s a fascinating look at his mother’s early years in Shanghai and Hong Kong, but it’s also a who’s who in Chinese and Hong Kong history.

If Wong Kar-wai were to write a screenplay for a post-Handover story, along the same lines as his classic films set in the 1960s and 1990s, it might look like Sheung-King’s new novel, Batshit Seven. The pen name of author Aaron Tang, Sheung-King writes a raw and gritty story of a twenty-six year old called Glue—the amalgamation of Glen Wu—who has recently returned to Hong Kong after spending seven years in Toronto to studying acting at university and starting, but not finishing, an MFA in program in creative writing. 

At last someone has found a practical application for virtual reality. Brian Kwok teaches design at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University and he has been studying Hong Kong’s neon signs and the culture that surrounds them. It has convinced him that they should be preserved. But how? Kwok has a really difficult row to hoe, and he knows it full well.

You never know what’ll show up in the archives. In 2015, Benjamin Penny stumbled across the 19th-century diaries of one Chaloner Alabaster in the Special Collections room of London’s SOAS. Alabaster left England in August 1855 to take up a position as “student interpreter” in the China Consular Service. He ended up making a career of it, but the diaries reproduced here end in 1856 when Alabaster was still a teenager.

Although originally conceived as an oratorio, Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah (1846) has in recent years been staged, on occasion at any rate, as an opera. Last night’s semi-staged performance by The Bel Canto Singers showed why: whatever the libretto may lack in theatricality is made up for by the drama in the music, sung by operatically-sized cast of a dozen named characters and a large chorus.