The Harmony Silk Factory

The Harmony Silk Factory

Book - 2006
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A landmark work of fiction from one of Britain's most exciting new writers: 'The Harmony Silk Factory' is a devastating love story set against the turmoil of mid-twentieth-century Malaysia.

Set in Malaysia in the 1930s and 40s, with the rumbling of the Second World War in the background and the Japanese about to invade, 'The Harmony Silk Factory' is the story of four people: Johnny, an infamous Chinaman - a salesman, a fraudster, possibly a murderer - whose shop house, The Harmony Silk Factory, he uses as a front for his illegal businesses; Snow Soong, the beautiful daughter of one of the Kinta Valley's most prominent families, who dies giving birth to one of the novel's narrators; Kunichika, a Japanese officer who loves Snow too; and an Englishman, Peter Wormwood, who went to Malaysia like many English but never came back, who also loved Snow to the end of his life. A journey the four of them take into the jungle has a devastating effect on all of them, and brilliantly exposes the cultural tensions of the era.

Haunting, highly original, 'The Harmony Silk Factory' is suspenseful to the last page.

Publisher: London ; Toronto : Harper Perennial, 2006, c2005
ISBN: 9780007232284
0007232284
Characteristics: 362, 14 p

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doroschelch
Jul 22, 2012

Beautifully written, multi-layered portrait of an anti-hero whose character stays ambivalent - like the country of the author, Malaysia, although he gives the reader deep insights from the viewpoint of natives.

Khru_JoAnne Oct 04, 2011

Who is Johnny Lim? Is he the monster his son Jasper says he is? Is he the "unfathomable inscrutable East" according to his wife Snow? Or is he the guileless innocent as described by his friend Peter? It is difficult to say with any certainty _who_ Johnny Lim is since all three are unreliable narrators. Regretfully, "Johnny, we hardly knew
ye." To the end, he is an enigma for we never hear from Johnny himself. Tash Aw's novel is a complex inconsistent work filled with familiar tropes of the Far East and nods to Conrad and Maugham. As he conjures up images of white linen suits, Panama hats, forbidding
jungles, and parvenu (non)natives with upper-class pretensions, he
tosses away an intriguing notion: Chinese capitalist merchants as
secret communist guerrillas. At times, the underlying story (Malaysian history) threatens to overwhelm the plot with unanswered questions. At
other times, the characters underwhelm the reader's expectations for clarity. What Peter says pretty much sums up the ambiguities of postcoloniality that Aw attempts to explore: "That things thought of as native aren't always what they seem, and that we shouldn't be constrained by ideas of what belongs where."

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