The Harmony Silk Factory

HarperCollins UK

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.

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About the author

Tash Aw is a recent graduate of UEA. He is Malaysian by birth but now lives in London. This is his first novel.

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10 total

Additional Information

HarperCollins UK
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Published on
Dec 28, 2008
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Fiction / General
Fiction / Historical
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / International Mystery & Crime
Fiction / Thrillers / Crime
Fiction / Thrillers / Historical
Fiction / Thrillers / Legal
Fiction / Thrillers / Suspense
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From the the award-winning author of Five Star Billionaire and The Harmony Silk Factory comes a whirlwind personal history of modern Asia, as told through his Malaysian and Chinese heritage.

In The Face: Strangers on a Pier, acclaimed author Tash Aw explores the panoramic cultural vitality of modern Asia through his own complicated family story of migration and adaptation, which is reflected in his own face. From a taxi ride in present-day Bangkok, to eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1980s Kuala Lumpur, to his grandfathers’ treacherous boat journeys to Malaysia from mainland China in the 1920s, Aw weaves together stories of insiders and outsiders, images from rural villages to megacity night clubs, and voices in a dizzying variety of languages, dialects, and slangs, to create an intricate and astoundingly vivid portrait of a place caught between the fast-approaching future and a past that won’t let go.

“Mr. Aw is a patient writer, and an elegant one. His supple yet unshowy prose can resemble Kazuo Ishiguro's.… He's a writer to watch."
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Tash Aw is an essential voice for the global world we live in today."
—Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

“Aw is emerging as a master storyteller.'
—The Times

“Aw's prose can be powerful and mesmerising in its sense of place…and psychological acuity. Haunting and memorable.”
—Maya Jaggi, The Guardian

Born in Taipei to Malaysian parents, Tash Aw grew up in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Britain to attend university. He is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009), and Five Star Billionaire (2013), which have won the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and twice been longlisted for the Man Booker prize; they have also been translated into twenty-three languages. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space and the landmark Granta 100, amongst others.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

An expansive, eye-opening novel that captures the vibrancy of China today
Phoebe is a factory girl who has come to Shanghai with the promise of a job—but when she arrives she discovers that the job doesn’t exist. Gary is a country boy turned pop star who is spinning out of control. Justin is in Shanghai to expand his family’s real estate empire, only to find that he might not be up to the task. He has long harbored a crush on Yinghui, a poetry-loving, left-wing activist who has reinvented herself as a successful Shanghai businesswoman. Yinghui is about to make a deal with the shadowy Walter Chao, the five star billionaire of the novel, who with his secrets and his schemes has a hand in the lives of each of the characters. All bring their dreams and hopes to Shanghai, the shining symbol of the New China, which, like the novel’s characters, is constantly in flux and which plays its own fateful role in the lives of its inhabitants.
Five Star Billionaire is a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel that offers rare insight into the booming world of Shanghai, a city of elusive identities and ever-changing skylines, of grand ambitions and outsize dreams. Bursting with energy, contradictions, and the promise of possibility, Tash Aw’s remarkable new book is both poignant and comic, exotic and familiar, cutting-edge and classic, suspenseful and yet beautifully unhurried.

Praise for Five Star Billionaire
“Estimable . . . artful . . . Mr. Aw is a patient writer, and an elegant one. His supple yet unshowy prose can resemble Kazuo Ishiguro’s. . . . He’s a writer to watch.”—The New York Times

“In Five Star Billionaire, the Taiwanese-born, Malaysian writer Tash Aw chooses a refreshingly novel perspective. . . . Through five distinct Malaysian-Chinese voices, Mr. Aw wonderfully expresses the grit and cosmopolitan glamour of Shanghai today. . . . Mr. Aw has done more than merely satirize a social milieu; he has created a cast of compelling characters, all of whom have come to Shanghai to remake themselves, yet are haunted by their pasts in ways that they barely understand. . . . In Five Star Billionaire, Mr. Aw has achieved something remarkable.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Aw’s] ever-spiraling web of connections is as improbable as it is entertaining, but he knits his various threads with an elegance . . . coupled with a photorealistic eye for the minutiae of urban life.”—The Boston Globe

“The ambition of the book perfectly reflects its subject. In one scene, we’re introduced to a ‘folk guitarist whose slangy lyrics spoke of urban migration and loneliness.’ Aw might be describing himself, except that his threnodies are set to sophisticated modern jazz.”—Pico Iyer, Time

“Goes beyond the bounds of the ordinary . . . [Aw] provides a richly drawn landscape of compelling characters, and a deep immersion in their lives. . . . Five Star Billionaire is a fiercely contemporary tale of tradition, modernity and the cost of progress.”—Ellah Allfrey, All Things Considered, NPR

“Aw has woven an impressive and contemporary human tapestry of a country that Western audiences would do well to better understand.”—The Daily Beast

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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