My Favourite Wife
by Tony Parsons, HarperCollins, HK$150
At first glance, Tony Parsons' novel seems like a departure: literally, being set in Shanghai. In other ways, however, this is Parsons doing what Parsons does, exploring relationships between men and women, parents and children, men and parents, children and women in sentences much shorter than the one you are now reading. Bill and Becca Holden swap their happy and relatively affluent life in London for an affluent and relatively happy one in China. While Bill is liberated from his old existence (socially and financially), Becca struggles to adapt to her new surroundings: in one unnerving scene she discovers an abandoned baby in the rubbish. Caught in the middle is their daughter Holly, who suffers from asthma attacks. Then Bill meets Lin Jin Jin, the 'second wife' of a wealthy businessman, and so begins an affaire de coeur that threatens to spread towards other organs. When Becca takes a break from Shanghai, Bill and Jin Jin cross more lines than a railway engineer. Parsons may not be the finest prose stylist, he may not be the deepest social commentator and he clearly has a fetish for women's ribs, but he knows how to spin a yarn.