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The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

The Harmony Silk Factory

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

Category Winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award 2005 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The story of a mysterious man, Johnny Lim. I say mysterious for we get three different narratives relating parts of his life that illustrate very different men, all Johnny, and so it shows us how we bend or interpret the truth. Here we never really discover what that is but in the tales we get a large amount of history of Malaysia. A wonderful, fascinating, beautifully written first novel.

Comparison: Rani Manicka, Nadeem Aslam, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

If you like Tash Aw you might also like to read books by Khaled Hosseini, Monica Ali and Michael Ondaatje.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

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.


'A fine, strong, confident novel - and what a storyteller Tash Aw is. Unputdownable'Doris Lessing'The Harmony Silk Factory is an utterly remarkable debut. It's a dream of a novel, lovely and exquisite and intense, and reveals Tash Aw's already prodigious gift for storytelling; this young writer has come to us fully formed, and with the promise of a long and significant career.'

-rae Lee'Bewitchingly written and gracefully assured ... The story Aw tells is mercilessly gripping and his prose is lucid, uncluttered, beautiful ... Aw orchestrates a graceful ballet of dissonances and congruences, of echoes and discords.
Neel Mukherjee, The Times

'Tash Aw's striking debut is as elusive as it is exotic. Aw is a skilled and sensitive writer'
Daily Mail

'Absorbing ... a rich, intense novel ... The strength of Tash Aw's writing can be seen in the three narratives. Each voice is distinct and each offers a subtly different viewpoint, remaking the material afresh ... The beauty and danger of nature are everywhere in this delicately drawn novel'

About the Author

Tash Aw

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

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Book Info

Publication date

16th January 2006


Tash Aw

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Harpercollins Publishers


Paperback (b Format)
384 pages


Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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