Monday, February 25, 2008

5. Fragrant Harbour

Lanchester, John Call No: S-LAN
Fragrant Harbour/ John Lanchester. London : Faber and Faber, 2002
xii, 299 p. : maps ; 23 cm.
ISBN 0-571-21468-1
1. Hong Kong - Social life and customs. 2. Hotels, motels - Fiction.

Book recommendation by Hanna Green

This book reminds me of my braids when I was a girl. Several strands of quite separate stories are told, then there is clasp and like the ends of the various strands of hair come together and form one bunch of hair so you learn towards the end what holds the book together.
All parts follow different main characters´ ways to Hong Kong. They all hope to find better conditions than at home.
In the first part a young journalist has her ups and downs in the British newspaper word until she goes to Hong Kong. Here her features become so popular that she writes an article on the big triads and how their heirs have succeeded in making even bigger deals and money by becoming “respectable”. This plunges her into a situation in which she can either loose her livelihood in Hong Kong or that can catapult her into the centre of power in the media world of South Asia.
The second part unfolds the years of Hong Kong History as experienced by a British lad who in the 1930ies follows his drive to see foreign lands.
A Chinese nun he meets on the ship out to Hong Kong teaches him Cantonese and becomes his link to the non Expat world.
In the last part the young present day businessman is an “astronaut”, someone spending his time on planes between Europe, Asia and Australia. But his enterprise is threatened by the traditional practice of bribery in Asia. He has to choose between ruin for him and his extended family or being saved by (former?) underworld magnates.
After a bit tedious beginning the book develops a speed and fascination one cannot resist. And when you come to the end you feel you know more how Hong Kong ticks.