Reviewer Donald Morrison has given a good review of Tash Aw's novel, The Harmony Silk Factory in the Time.
"Malaysia is a land rich in farmers, civil servants and electronics assembly workers, but poor in novelists. That's an odd deficit, given the country's high levels of literacy, prosperity and anxiety, as well as an abundance of history, politics, ethnic tension and other delicate topics that can be used as material. All of which makes Tash Aw's debut novel worthy of close inspection.
The first major work of fiction written in English by a Malaysian about his country in recent memory, Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory has won enthusiastic reviews since its publication in March in the U.S. and the U.K. Foreign rights have been sold in nearly a dozen countries, and the book will appear in Asia in June. Malaysians looking for insights into their country's modern condition may be disappointed. Other readers may find themselves enjoyably lost in a land of magic and mayhem."
After the first two paragraphs, Donald pretty much gives away the story. But he ends it well:
"The Harmony Silk Factory doesn't strain to be The Great Malaysian Novel. That's a deliberate decision by Aw, 33, who considers himself "100% Malaysian," though born in Taipei (to Malaysian-Chinese parents), raised in Kuala Lumpur, educated at Cambridge and now resident in London. "I didn't set out to incorporate any particularly Malaysian themes," Aw said from New York City, where he was on a promotional tour. "My intention was to demolish the Malaysian historical novel of the 1930s and '40s, as influenced by Somerset Maugham. You know, the idea that there are only two versions of Malaysia in literature—a place where white men sit around drinking pink gin, and a place full of colorful people doing quaint things. I wanted to write a book that didn't depend on settings."
Read the review here.
Very good for Tash. I saw a copy of the book in Kinokuniya recently here. Alas, my reading list is so long! This book will have to wait for me.