Malaysia in the 1940s: part paradise, part Conradian heart of darkness. In a highly original first novel that sets a lush landscape at a historical crossroads, Tash Aw portrays three unique perspectives on the character and life of a highly enigmatic man. To his son, Johnny Lim is a traitor and a murderer; to his beautiful wife, he's a man without a past; and to his best and only friend, he's a fiercely magnetic confidant. Having fled his rural background as a young man, Johnny arrives in the Kinta Valley with little more than a new name and a burning desire to begin an odyssey that will make him the richest, most influential man in the region. As the years pass, some regard him as a hero -- a Communist who fought against the Japanese, and a successful businessman who married the most desirable woman in the country. But others, including his son, suspect something much darker.
Defly weaving the three different narratives, Aw has created a masterful portrait of a disturbing and complex man that explores how little we really know about each other -- even those to whom we are closest. Culturally and historically rich, with characters made real by their very frailty, The Harmony Silk Factory is an accomplished and provocative debut that does what only the best fiction can. It challenges readers with its scope and sagacity and moves them with its imagination and restraint. (Summer 2005 Selection)