This is two books in one. It is a picaresque tale of a good St Mary’s girl who gave up wearing gloves and found it didn’t hurt and life beyond fantastic; roaming the world as journalist and foreign correspondent, and with happy optimism and Chinese luck always finding someone to give her an assignment, including in the land of her ancestors, China.
It is also a significant addition to Tasmanian family history, colouring in one of the best-known Chinese Australian families in Hobart with fact and anecdote of life, relationships, social mores and the sometimes scandalising (for mid-twentieth century Hobart society) behaviour of various of Chung’s relatives including her mother. The liveliest and most insightful account yet of how life looked from the vantage point of a Chinese Tasmanian family in the second half of the 20th century: the family life of middle-class shopkeepers (and one bohemian), and the effects of the feuding and complications of the conventions of multiple marriages by male members; and the life of Hobart and Australian society in general, of which Australian-born Chung feels entirely a part even if some others have not always allowed that she was.
Along the way, the book also offers a small history of the highly personalised and often eccentric HR culture of the ABC, for which Chung worked in many places West and East, and its long resistance to assigning women to its overseas posts and Australians of non-Caucasian physiognomy to front its TV programs.
And a love story, that ends in unexpected sorrow, but not in pessimism or despair.