9780142003374

Fragrant Harbor

Lanchester, John

ISBN 10: 0142003379 / 0-14-200337-9
ISBN 13: 9780142003374
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 2003
Binding: Softcover
Editorial Reviews for this title:
Synopsis:
It is 1935, and Tom Stewart, a young Englishman with a longing for adventure, buys himself a cheap ticket aboard the SS Darjeeling-en route to the complex and corrupt world of Hong Kong. A shipboard wager leads to an unlikely friendship that spans seven decades as Hong Kong endures the savagery of the Japanese occupation, emerging as a crossroads of international finance and the nexus of a world of warlords, drug runners, and Chinese triads.


Review:
Two brilliant novels in one, John Lanchester's Fragrant Harbor presents a traditional colonial narrative set in the 1930s and 1940s inside a larger, dizzyingly complex tale of big business at the turn of the 21st century. Lanchester's main character, Tom Stewart, is a Kentish lad who journeys to the exotic Far East in 1935, just as the commercial prospects of Hong Kong are becoming apparent. On his voyage out, Tom is made the object of a curious bet between a Chinese nun and language teacher, Sister Maria, and an anti-Catholic English businessman. As a result, he becomes proficient in Cantonese with only six weeks' study. This skill, unusual in an Englishman, is the making of Tom's career. Although they part on bad terms, Sister Maria remains a shimmering figure on the periphery of Tom's life in Hong Kong, and their one thought as the Japanese invade the region is to protect each other.

Lanchester was raised in Hong Kong (his grandparents had settled there in the 1930s and been interned by the Japanese during the war), and his insider view of the place is about as far from the small, lyrical Western-Asian novels of recent years as can be imagined. The broad scope and jerking pace of Fragrant Harbor can be disconcerting, but they vividly convey the shifting fortunes and alliances of this crowded, corrupting, and much-contested territory. --Regina Marler

Review

Review:
Fragrant Harbour is the story of four people whose intertwined lives span Asia?s last 70 years. Tom Stewart leaves England just before it is hit by the Great Depression to seek his fortune, and finds it in running Hong Kong?s best hotel. Sister Maria is a beautiful and uncompromising Chinese nun whom Stewart meets on the boat out from England; their friendship spans decades and changes both their lives. Dawn Stone is an English journalist who becomes the public face of money and power and big business. Matthew Ho is a young Chinese entrepreneur whose life has been shaped by painful choices made long before his birth, and who is now facing his own difficulties, and opportunities, in the twenty-first century.

The complacency of colonial life in the 1930s; the horrors of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War; the post-war boom and transformation of Hong Kong into a laboratory of capitalism at its most cut-throat; the growth of the Triads; the handover of the city to the Chinese ? all these are present in Fragrant Harbour, an epic novel of one of the world?s great cities. The novel?s shape and scale, its emotional power and beauty, make it John Lanchester?s finest book to date.

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