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Fiction Historical

The Lost Century

by (author) Larissa Lai

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
Historical, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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Lambda Literary Award winner Larissa Lai (The Tiger Flu) returns with a sprawling historical novel about war, colonialism, love, and loyalty during Japan's occupation of Hong Kong in World War II.

On the eve of the return of the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997, young Ophelia asks her peculiar great-aunt Violet about the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II, the disappearance of her uncle Raymond, and whether her grandmother, Emily, was a murderer.

Emily's marriage - three times - to her father's mortal enemy causes a stir among three very different Hong Kong Chinese families, as well as among the young cricketers at the Hong Kong Cricket Club, who've just witnessed King Edward VIII's abdication to marry Wallis Simpson. But the bickering around the scandal of Emily's marriage is violently disrupted by the Japanese Imperial Army's invasion of Hong Kong on Christmas Day, 1941, which plunges the colony into a landscape of violence none of its inhabitants escape from unscathed, least of all Emily. When her sister's situation becomes dire, Violet, along with a crew of unlikely cosmopolitans, hatches a plan to rescue Emily from the wrath of the person she thought loved her the most - her husband, Tak-Wing. In the middle of it all, a strange match of timeless Test cricket unfolds in which the ball has an agency all its own.

With great heart, The Lost Century explores the intersections of Asian relations, queer Asian history, underground resistance, the violence of war, and the rise of modern China - a sprawling novel of betrayal, epic violence, and intimate passions.

About the author

Larissa Lai is the author of two novels, When Fox is a Thousand, shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Salt Fish Girl, shortlisted for the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award; one book of poetry Automaton Biographies, shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Award; and a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement, shortlisted for the bp Nichol Chapbook Award.

Through the 90s, she was a cultural organizer in feminist, GLBTQ and anti-racist communities in Vancouver. Now, as an English professor at the University of British Columbia, she teaches courses on race, memory, and citizenship, as well as on biopower and the poetics of relation.

Rita Wong teaches in Critical + Cultural Studies at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she has developed a humanities course focused on water, with the support of a fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She is currently researching the poetics of water, supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: .

Her poems have appeared in anthologies such as Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women's Poetry and Poetics, Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, Visions of British Columbia (published for an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery), and Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature. She has a passion for daylighting buried urban streams and for watershed literacy. Wong can be found on twitter at

Larissa Lai's profile page

Editorial Reviews

The Lost Century showcases not only Lai's fair-minded and nuanced understanding of geopolitics, but also her considerable writing chops. -British Columbia Review

The Lost Century is a marvel: tender, funny, beautiful, yet so very telling of yet another chapter of nations and their peoples brutalized by the savagery of British colonialism. Ultimately what remains is the stories of precious lives and relationships. With Larissa Lai as its scribe, no century can be entirely lost. -Nalo Hopkinson, author of Brown Girl in the Ring

In The Lost Century, memory is powerful and even transcendent. -Northwest Review

The Lost Century is a war story unlike anything you’ve read. It provides a brilliant window into a history that is far too little-known in the west, and it upends prevailing understandings of colonial power, race and national identity during World War II. It is also a wonderfully warm and generous story that highlights love, humour and camaraderie as modes of intercultural alliance. Larissa Lai's narrative magic shows us how history unfolds through intimate relationships - often in unexpected ways. -Warren Cariou, author of Lake of the Prairies

In an ambitious and riveting family saga of Hong Kong that weighs the innocence and optimism of youth against the brutal realities of war and imperialism, racism and misogyny, these pages also probe the complex identity of the colony as travellers from Newfoundland and northern Saskatchewan, Japan and Jamaica pass through. 'How do we remember,' Lai asks,'and why is what we know of the past so full of holes?'" -Paul Yee, author of A Superior Man

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