Tai-Pan : A novel of Hong Kong by James Clavell
New York : Atheneum, 1966. First Edition. Hardcover. 590 pages ; 23 cm. $6.95 dust jacket with shelf wear and heavy sunning to spine and front side of jacket. Pages are age toned and unmarked. Binding is firm.
A Novel of Hong Kong
Tai-Pan is Chinese for Supreme Leader: he who wields the power.
Here is a monumental achievement in story-telling by the author of the widely acclaimed best-seller King Rat.
Dirk Struan is Tai-Pan of The Noble House, the most powerful and most feared trading company in the Orient. For twenty years Struan has been obsessed by a grand design— the conversion of a barren island called Hong Kong into a jewel of the British Empire.
When Hong Kong is ceded to England by China in the wake of the first Opium War, Struan alone understands the island's potential. Its harbor, the finest in the world, is indispensable to the further expansion of British trade in the Far East. And Hong Kong is the steppingstone to China, the colossal enigma which Struan intends to fathom and bring into the family of nations as a great power.
In this turbulent, panoramic novel James Clavell narrates the saga of how Struan, with majestic vision, ruthless will and ingenious grasp of command, guides the development of a colony destined to influence the course of history.
Pursuing his exalted plan, Struan runs afoul of his chief antagonist and competitor, Tyler Brock. Sworn to demolish Struan, Brock is abetted by his brutish son, Gorth.
Struan, also, has a son in his camp. Two, in fact: Culum, an idealist who recoils from the savagery and intrigues which are an essential part of his father's life; and Gordon Chen, an illegitimate Eurasian who is a consummate entrepreneur and (unknown to his father) a member of the Hung Mung Tong, a secret society dedicated to overthrowing the Manchu Emperor of China.
Struan's main solace is his Chinese mistress, May-May. Shrewd and magnanimous, drolly ingenuous and astoundingly wise, May-May is a rare creature, and the love between her and Struan suffuses the novel with a lyrical poignance.
Here, then, is a glorious epic with a prodigious variety of supporting personae, and with constantly erupting action: combat on land and sea with pirates, looting mobs and the Emperor's crack troops 3 personal and professional rivalries which inevitably lead to violence j and an epidemic and a typhoon which threaten the very existence of Hong Kong.
Tai-Pan is a masterful re-creation of an epoch exploding with progress and radical change, and boiling with international intrigue. It offers a provocative study of the challenges and responsibilities of power. It provides a unique insight into the Chinese temperament. Most important, it is a gripping story to read.
James Clavell is, in his words, "a half-Irish Englishman with Scots overtones, born in Australia, a citizen of the U.S.A., residing in California and Canada or wherever." His public-school education in England was interrupted by the war. He served in the British Army from 1940 to 1946 as a Captain, Royal Artillery. In 1954 he began a career in the film industry as scenarist, then as director and producer. In 1962 his first novel, King Rat, was published, based partly on his experiences as a prisoner-of-war in Changi, a Japanese camp in Singapore. It became a best-seller, both in English and in European translations. Mr. Clavell is also the author of a provocative short story, "The Children's Story," published in 1963 and still a subject of lingering controversy. He brings to the subject of Hong Kong a lifetime of enthusiasm for, and exposure to, the Orient.
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