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The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
The Harmony Silk Factory tells the story of Johnny Lim, a Chinese-Malaysian man during and after World War II. Tash Aw's novel is in three parts, with each section telling a different perspective on Johnny's life. The first section is told by his son, Jasper, who searches for the story of his father's life to find out how he became such a despicable man. He finds that his father worked in a British-run tin mine in Malaya, chafing at his poor treatment by his racist masters. The murder of one of his bosses allows him a career change to become a brilliant salesman at the Tiger Brand Trading Company. When Tiger Tan's mysterious death puts Johnny in charge of the company, he marries the most beautiful woman in the valley, Snow Soong. The second section of the book is Snow's diary of a belated honeymoon trip, accompanied by a Japanese professor, Mamoru Kunichika, and a British aesthete, Peter Wormwood. The third section is Peter's remembrance of the same trip, and his fond memories of both Johnny and Snow. The Harmony Silk Factory explores the life of a man as told from three different sources, all with their own memories and limitations. Tash Aw's debut novel has received mostly positive reviews with the London Times saying, "From the clunky unreliability of Jasper, through the pellucid prose of Snow's journal to the intelligent, slightly camp, aesthetic eloquence of Wormwood, Aw orchestrates a graceful ballet of dissonances and congruences, of echoes and discords."