Review: Tash Aw’s “The Harmony Silk Factory”

by writereaderly

tash aw harmony silk factoryThis was a gripping read, I’ll give it that – three characters (son, wife, onetime best friend) exploring the enigma that was Johnny Lam, set mostly during the late-30s and early 40s in the Federated States of Malaya. None of the three, of course, plumbs the depth of mysterious Johnny. I’d say only two of the characters are truly three dimensional: wife Snow is just an evocation of distance on the page. Actually, the best friend was *not* creditable as a straight man, nor was his passion. And the novel was well written, quite lovely, but I remained unmoved by it. It was most enriching, however, to read a Malaysian late-colonial novel, and I pined for the heat and the fruit and the fragrant air (and they stuck with me for a day or two after I had moved on to other bookly distractions). I wouldn’t write Aw off, though; I may try another of his if it crosses my lectern.

Where it came from: Library reject shelf
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of nights and afternoons, mostly in the armchair
Where it went: Opshop
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Culturally curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; City of God by E.L. Doctorow