The Harmony Silk Factory

Tash Aw

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The Harmony Silk Factory

The Harmony Silk Factory Joseph Conrad W Somerset Maugham and Anthony Burgess have shaped our perceptions of Malaysia In Tash Aw we now have an authentic Malaysian voice that remaps this literary landscape The Harmony Silk

  • Title: The Harmony Silk Factory
  • Author: Tash Aw
  • ISBN: 9781594481741
  • Page: 199
  • Format: Paperback
  • Joseph Conrad, W Somerset Maugham, and Anthony Burgess have shaped our perceptions of Malaysia In Tash Aw, we now have an authentic Malaysian voice that remaps this literary landscape.The Harmony Silk Factory traces the story of textile merchant Johnny Lim, a Chinese peasant living in British Malaya in the first half of the twentieth century Johnny s factory is the mostJoseph Conrad, W Somerset Maugham, and Anthony Burgess have shaped our perceptions of Malaysia In Tash Aw, we now have an authentic Malaysian voice that remaps this literary landscape.The Harmony Silk Factory traces the story of textile merchant Johnny Lim, a Chinese peasant living in British Malaya in the first half of the twentieth century Johnny s factory is the most impressive structure in the region, and to the inhabitants of the Kinta Valley Johnny is a hero a Communist who fought the Japanese when they invaded, ready to sacrifice his life for the welfare of his people But to his son, Jasper, Johnny is a crook and a collaborator who betrayed the very people he pretended to serve, and the Harmony Silk Factory is merely a front for his father s illegal businesses This debut novel from Tash Aw gives us an exquisitely written look into another culture at a moment of crisis.The Harmony Silk Factory won the 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award and also made it to the 2005 Man Booker longlist.

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    One thought on “The Harmony Silk Factory

    1. Whitaker on said:

      Oh god, this is the third crap book in a row. Life's too bloody short for this!!!!!!!!! I so wanted to like this. It's not often that a South-East Asian writer (Tash Aw is of Malaysian origin) gets international recognition. But this is utter crap. To be honest, I didn't finish it. I gave up at around this point: [our protagonist, Johnny, is having a conversation with a communist in British Malaya]'What I think,' Gun said, as he prised the parang [a kind of knife used in warfare] from the soil a [...]

    2. BrokenTune on said:

      Memories are things to be buried. They die, just as people do, and with their passing, all traces of the life they once touched are erased, for ever and completely.Despite my initial misgivings about the book and despite the fact that the book suffered from the pressures of "having to read it" for a book group, The Harmony Silk Factory turned out to be a fairly interesting read. Mostly set in Malaysia just before the Japanese invasion, Aw created a story that is set on the verges of different th [...]

    3. Aziff on said:

      I have mixed feelings about The Harmony Silk Factory. As I steadily progressed through the book, it reminded me of The Historian in terms of narrative. Harmony Silk Factory tells the tale of a mysterious Chinese Communist by the name of Johnny in a colonial Malaya through the eyes of three perspectives.I enjoyed T. Aw's detail and storytelling, it was well-written. And given the narrative style he took on, he sheds light on the tale of Johnny in different vignettes, allowing us to look at him in [...]

    4. Growlingsoulpup on said:

      The Harmony Silk Factory is a very good book. It is a very light book as well, supple and nuanced, elegantly concealing and yielding its gems in the same movement. It is not, however, a simple book, though it may appear as such to the simple reader who is unable to comprehend unreliable narration, or distinguish between a narratorial voice and the author function. Much of Aw's concerns here revolve around the act of narrativizing itself, how history is a palimpsest, how perception and personal b [...]

    5. Babak Fakhamzadeh on said:

      Though Aw won the Whitbread First Novel Award for this book in 2005, I wasn't overly impressed. Interesting for its references to Malay culture and society, I thought the novel very constructed. The central character of the book, Johnny Lim, is discussed by his son, his wife and an old friend, all highlighting very different aspects of the man and all seeing him in very different lights. Although the concept is intriguing and the conclusion valid, that the way you see the people around you depen [...]

    6. Miriiam Isa on said:

      The story harkens one to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. As the narrative on Johnny Lim, the owner of The Harmony Silk Factory evolves from three angles – Jasper(his purported son), Snow(his wife who died after giving birth to Jasper) and Peter(English expat adrift in Malaya and Johnny’s close friend) – our understanding of his underlying character becomes more muddied. I love it that Aw teases us to reflect on who the real Johnny Lim is. A liar and a cheat according to Jasper who sta [...]

    7. Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship on said:

      The Harmony Silk Factory is a narrative dealing primarily with Malaysia prior to the Second World War (also briefly discussing the situation during and after the war), as narrated by three distinct characters. The first section, narrated by Jasper, the son of the infamous Johnny Lim (possibly the protagonist, although we never hear from him directly), is interesting but not riveting. Jasper is the classic unreliable narrator, hating his father so much that we know he can't be objective. Second c [...]

    8. Karel on said:

      I bought this book a long time ago, but was put off by the start of Peter's account and have just finished re-reading it the other day. The book is divided into three segments - narrated by three different narrators whose story circles around one man, Johnny Lim. Narrated by his son, wife and good friend, the novel is about their stories as much as his. At the end of the novel, Johnny remains as much a mystery as he was at the beginning. Is he a cold and withdrawn father, traitor, communist and [...]

    9. Wei Ming on said:

      A caveat: as a British Chinese Malay, I can't read any of Tash Aw's books objectively, I just can't. It's impossible to be completely so, of course, there will always be preconceived expectations going into a book, but he's writing about a country I have such a strong emotional tie to (HIS LATEST BOOK FIVE STAR BILLIONAIRE, I'M GONNA DIE). Short short short review: unreliable narrators! Overlapping Rashomon perspectives! The impact of British colonialism and Japanese invasion/occupation! Very br [...]

    10. Theresa on said:

      .I spent most of the book thinking 75% of the characters were gay. I'm still not entirely sure if they were/weren't. I see that as a bonus and it's probably one of the reasons I enjoyed this.

    11. Patrick McCoy on said:

      Tash Aw's debut novel, The Harmony Silk Factory (2006) is an impressive beginning. It is a complex historical-based novel set in Malaysia that showcases a skill in creating a number of distinct storytelling voices. It is a complex story with the enigmatic Malaysian Chinese communist/collaborator/businessman Johnny Lim at the forefront of a story told from three separate points of view. Lim, is linked to all three characters intimately, but none of them really know him or connect with him. The fi [...]

    12. Stephanie on said:

      The story of Johnny Lim, a Malaysian who survived and profited socially and financially through World War II, is told from three perspectives: his son's, his wife's, and that of a British friend. None of the three is reliable for different reason, but each is interesting. Jasper, Johnny's son, is the most certain that he has the true story -- but his tale is filled with folklore that has grown up around his father and disappointments at never knowing his mother who died when he was born and a fa [...]

    13. Sorin Hadârcă on said:

      One of finest fiction here by the Malaysian Tash Aw. Son, wife and friend tell the story of one called Johnny, who is quite a different person depending upon who's talking. His character is elusive, so that the narrators end up telling their own stories instead. Isn't that exactly how life is? Unknown to others, unknown to self, only glimpses of facts reveal the subject now and then, never fully.

    14. Claire on said:

      I liked the loose writing style, I was engaged with the story, but dramatic events didn't create as much drama as they warranted. having the significant section of the story from 3 different perspectives was interesting but Peter's section seemed less considered than the others. all in all for a book picked up in a charity shop on a trip away it was a good read.

    15. Hilary G on said:

      Ex Bookworm group review:Sitting down to write this review, I am reminded of the small piece of silk that Johnny gave to Peter the first time they met. It was iridescent and shot through with so many colours that every time it moved its appearance changed. That is as good a description of The Harmony Silk Factory as any I could think up.Like several of our book choices, the story is told from multiple viewpoints, giving me another chance to mention Wilkie Collins, who did it first. This must be [...]

    16. Nemo on said:

      A beautiful story that shows how time and perspective can change a persons legacy and how little we know of the people right next to us

    17. Patrick on said:

      How well you get on with this book is likely to depend somewhat on whether you enjoy or are instead irritated by, books that are puzzles to be solved, or at least, puzzled over, by their readers.The book tells the story of Malaysian 'entrepreneur' Johnny Lim, focusing, in particular, on the events of the second world war, and his involvement with the British colonial rulers, the Chinese-backed Communist resistance and the Japanese military, who are in the process of usurping the British. It is t [...]

    18. Judy on said:

      I don't believe I have read a novel set in Malaysia before. I admit I was a little vague on where that country is and had to look it up. Tash Aw made a big splash with this first novel. His third, Five Star Billionaire is being published in July and I decided it was time to investigate this author. It was a good decision.The Harmony Silk Factory is the textiles store of Johnny Lim who came to Malaya with his peasant family from China in the early 20th century and rose up in business and politics [...]

    19. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy on said:

      This will sound glib, but this is only 2/3 of a great novel. Here's what it's about: Johnny Lim, a boondocks kid from Malaysia who attacks a tin mine owner, disappears and then surfaces as a worked in a textile shop. He falls in with the commie crowd and takes to offing people who are in his way. Outwardly respectable, if not quite of high social standing, he is really a kind of gangster. He marries the lovely Snow Soong, the daughter of a very high-society family. They embark on a kind of honey [...]

    20. Georgette on said:

      The novel is about Johnny Lim, textile merchant, petty crook and communist. His life is narrated in three parts by the people who knew him - his son Jasper, his wife Snow, and his best friend Peter Wormwood.Jasper, who never knew his mother Snow, covered most of Johnny's life story with observations about his father and stories he's heard. He tells of how Johnny survived an assassination attempt on Merdeka Day 1957, elevating his status from mortal to god in the eyes of his community.Snow found [...]

    21. Lisa on said:

      this was another oakland library discard pile scoop. i think i'd really give it 3.5 stars, but since i think it needs a pump up in rating i'm posting it as 4.i love the idea of never hearing from the central character - jimmy. i wasn't able to form a clear picture of him from the 3 incredibly varied views of the narrators jasper [son], snow [wife], peter [friend]. i love how the narrative revolves around the "TRUTH" for each of them, and yet we are never quite clear what the truth really is. suc [...]

    22. Z on said:

      Decidedly okay. It always felt like something was about to happen, but nothing really ever did. And there seemed to be a real lack of focus. In the end, I didn't really see what the point was, except that maybe people's perceptions are always going to be flawed. But, really, I didn't need to read this whole book to know that. So, eh. I won't be reading it again. I did love Peter, though.Oh, and there were a couple references to how Johnny was the only one who thought that the Japanese would inva [...]

    23. Neil on said:

      More like 4.5 stars: I really enjoyed reading this. It's a story told from the viewpoint of three different narrators and we hear from each in their turn. It reminds us that we all place our own interpretation on events and remember things differently from others who were involved. The author makes the characters comes alive. Somehow, he manages to give each a different voice but it is the voice we expect them to have from reading the other parts, so there is a real consistency and believability [...]

    24. ilham.mukhtar on said:

      This is a good read for leasure but it didn't have the much needed focus to restrict the story. The flow of the storytelling is distracted and it's hard for me to digest. You'll be surprise by how forceful Jasper is to mould the readers hatred towards his father, Johny that sometime the hatred is too much for the sin that Johny commit. Though intentional, the Jasper part should be moderated or he should have more evidendence for such hating. Coming from Malaysia, and especially in Kinta Valley I [...]

    25. Stephanie on said:

      This is a great book. It tells the story of Malaysia just before, during and after WWII. The story is told in 3 parts, by 3 different people who all have a very different perspective on the same people and events. The main character is either a leader of the Malaysian Communist Party, or a collaborator with the Japanese. He is a humble man who tries to fit in, or perhaps power hungry and cold-hearted. The book does an excellent job of pulling you in, and is written in such an intriguing way that [...]

    26. Nancy Doerrer on said:

      Johhny Lim is a business owner in the Kinta Valley in southernmost China (Malaysia). The story takes place just before WWII when the threat of Japanese invasion seems real to the Chinese, but not to the benevolent British occupation. Told in three sections by Johnny's alienated son Jasper, Johnny's wife Snow (via her diary) and Johnny's English expatriate friend Peter.

    27. Charlotte on said:

      Beautiful descriptions of Malay / great historical context pre and post World War II in South East Asia. Aw develops characters, especially the protagonist Jimmy, fully, weaving together different generations seamlessly. Unlike some descriptive historical context novels, which can be rather stagnant, this keeps moving, shifting and gently surprising throughout.

    28. charlotte Phillips on said:

      This complex story of three different people linked by one Chinese man in Malaysia is engaging and mysterious. Each person's story is true to their point of view and the style of language fits each one well.

    29. Elise Noorda on said:

      Maybe even 3.5. I really did like this book. Didn't love it, but really liked it. Set in Malaysia in the early and mid 1900's, a very authentic look at the people and cultures of this diverse area of the world.

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