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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Aug 08 - The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw (Ca)

Set in Malaysia during the 1930's and 1940's with the Japanese Occupation about to descend, the novel has three narrators: Jasper, Snow and Wormwood. They all tell the story of Johnny Lim, a Chinaman with many lives ... a salesman, a mechanic, a fraud, murderer, gangster .... or is this really so? It was interesting to see the tale revealed through different perspectives. This is Tash Aw's first novel. It won the 2005 Whitbread Book Award for Best First Novel and was also longlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize.
On the whole, the book generated an interesting discussion. Parts of the book were questioned, ..most of us enjoyed it,.. some of us wouldn't have read it if not for bookclub... some needed motivation to carry on reading it ... some couldn't put it down! A historical error was picked up by Fra who was indeed correct, when she pointed out that there was no television in Malaysia in 1957, therefore Independance Day events could not have been viewed on TV as mentioned in Ch 8 of the book. (p88 mentions the television set....."In 1957, on the day the country achieved independance after 450 years of foreign rule ....... The shooting happened as the nation gathered around the television sets to watch the independance day parade in KL.") We checked and later found out that television was only introduced to the country in 1963. The book however, is a work of fiction, so perhaps the author has deliberately changed the dates to suit the story.

Some interesting links:
Tash Aw's Website:
On the Novel:
Interview with Tash Aw
Kellie's Castle:
Map of Perak, Malaysia:
Interview with Tash Aw:
Tin Dredge:
more dredge pictures found here:
Discussion Questions at Penguin Website:
Welcome to our new member, Fra who also visited a few years ago when Ca needed her expertise on a book that we were reading ..... there are now 8 of us in our little group. Our next meeting will be at De's .... and discussion will be on An's book the controversial much talked about Lolita by Nabakov.

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