The Harmony Silk Factory

Tash Aw

Set in Malaysia in the 1930s and 40s, with the rumbling of the Second World War in the background and the Japanese about to invade, The Harmony Silk Factory is the story of four people: Johnny, an infamous Chinaman – a salesman, a fraudster, possibly a murderer – whose shop house, The Harmony Silk Factory, he uses as a front for his illegal businesses; Snow Soong, the beautiful daughter of one of the Kinta Valley’s most prominent families, who dies giving birth to one of the novel’s narrators; Kunichika, a Japanese officer who loves Snow too; and an Englishman, Peter Wormwood, who went to Malaysia like many English but never came back, who also loved Snow to the end of his life. A journey the four of them take into the jungle has a devastating effect on all of them, and brilliantly exposes the cultural tensions of the era. Haunting, highly original, The Harmony Silk Factory is suspenseful to the last page.

Reviews of The Harmony Silk Factory

  • ‘A fine, strong, confident novel – and what a storyteller Tash Aw is. Unputdownable’
    Doris Lessing

    ‘The Harmony Silk Factory is an utterly remarkable debut. It’s a dream of a novel, lovely and exquisite and intense, and reveals Tash Aw’s already prodigious gift for storytelling; this young writer has come to us fully formed, and with the promise of a long and significant career.’ Chang-rae Lee

    ‘Bewitchingly written and gracefully assured … The story Aw tells is mercilessly gripping and his prose is lucid, uncluttered, beautiful … Aw orchestrates a graceful ballet of dissonances and congruences, of echoes and discords.’ Neel Mukherjee, The Times

    ‘Tash Aw’s striking debut is as elusive as it is exotic. Aw is a skilled and sensitive writer’ Daily Mail

    ‘Absorbing … a rich, intense novel … The strength of Tash Aw’s writing can be seen in the three narratives. Each voice is distinct and each offers a subtly different viewpoint, remaking the material afresh … The beauty and danger of nature are everywhere in this delicately drawn novel’ TLS