by Matthew Harrison
Benjamin Bunce is the latest book by Matthew Harrison, an author based in Hong Kong. Originally from Britain, Harrison came expecting to stay for two years but has been here for more than 20.
The book follows a year in the life of Benjamin Bunce, a gweilo bachelor and PR manager at a banking organisation named the Prospect Group.
Told through the eyes of this English male expatriate, the story examines the complexities of living in a multicultural city and the amusing misunderstandings that can occur when many different nationalities are put together under one roof.
Many Hong Kong readers should be able to relate to the scandalous office life of the protagonist.
The titular character faces a series of challenges and adventures, including dealing with his CEO's 'wild schemes', being chased by the Macau mafia, encountering 'cage men' and being harassed by mainland officials. Bunce's comical misadventures may well strike a chord with readers.
The character of Bunce doesn't carry the whole load, though. Notable among the supporting characters is Reggie, Bunce's good friend and a source of much humour. An offbeat Australian journalist, Reggie is not afraid to 'dress in drag and do the hula'. Whenever he appears wacky events soon follow.
Although the story is complex, the novel is slow to get started and small events occur that don't seem to have any relevance to the storyline.
The author has an English degree from Oxford but has kept things admirably simple with a straightforward writing style that should keep things accessible to readers for whom English is a second language.
Benjamin Bunce may not be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but it's a breezy and enjoyable book that makes for an entertaining read over summer.