The Goddess of Macau
by Graeme Hall
This short story collection paints complex characters, Macau myths and magic, all set in the former Portuguese colony of Macau. Macau was the first European settlement in Asia (founded in 1557) and over some 450 years a unique Macanese culture developed, one that fused Europe and China to create an individual identity that sadly is in decline in the twenty-first century.
Graeme Hall is a talented storyteller and his work has been published in English, Portuguese and Chinese.
Let’s just start by saying I don’t think I’d ever even heard of Macau before reading this book so don’t feel bad if you’re not too sure either! Macau was a former colony of the Portuguese Empire and is now a major resort city in China. Founded in 1557, a unique Macanese culture developed fusing Europe and China to create an individual identity. The initially small population of Portuguese merchants rapidly became a growing city under colonial rule until Macau was transferred back to China in 1999.
Author Graeme Hall first visited Macau in 1993 and quickly became fascinated by the oldest European settlement in Asia. His book, “The Goddess of Macau” is a collection of eight short stories all set in the modern day city.
There are magical, fantastical themes but there’s also a fair amount of pain and death with this slim book. I think it would be fair to say that these stories are not all that light and cheery, so I’d recommend reading one at a time rather than all in one go. I enjoyed this collection over a couple of weeks, picking the book up every so often to enjoy a quick story of about 10 pages. This is one of my favourite things about short stories, snippets of literature that be enjoyed even in the smallest moments of time.
My favourite story in this collection is called ‘An Apartment on Coloane’, a story in which an old man has the ability of knowing when people are going to die. I can’t imagine the strain this kind of power would have on a person, especially when their own relatives are involved. Overall, I felt that this story was particularly well written and told a really powerful story.
“And that’s the truth of it: I’ve always had this ability, ever since I was a boy. I was seven, when out of the blue, I announced to my parents, ‘Big Uncle’s going to die.'”
Whilst these are all stand alone stories, they do all share a theme and I particularly enjoyed finding that some characters featured again in later stories after some time had past, like catching up with an old friend. In general, I enjoyed reading about something different for a change and these eight twisty stories made a refreshing change.
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve learned a great deal about Macau as the stories aren’t jam packed with facts, but the peek I have had through reading about it’s culture was a really enjoyable one and made for another great read from Fly on the Wall Press.
Overall rating: “The Goddess of Macau” is a wonderful collection of stories that I devoured over the past couple of weeks. I didn’t love them all, but that’s only natural in a collection. One story in particular stood out for me and will probably stay with me for some time. I’d definitely recommend this for short stories fans and those interested in learning a little about the culture of Macau. It’s 4 stars from me!
Thank you to Isabelle at Fly on the Wall Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.