It is 1935 and Tom Stewart, a young Englishman with an almost visceral longing for adventure, has bought himself a cheap ticket to the complex, corrupt, and corrupting world of Hong Kong. Aboard ship, he becomes the pawn in a wager between a bluff businessman and a Chinese missionary nun, who bets she can teach him Cantonese on the six-week voyage out. What begins as friendship turns into solace and then a passion that only individual vows can remit.
Fragrant Harbortakes the reader from the intrigue and double-dealing of the 1930s through the savagery of the Japanese occupation to contemporary Hong Kong, crossroads of international trade and finance and waystation for laundering the dirty money of warlords, drug runners, and Chinese triads. The novel ends three years after the Mainland takeover, with Hong Kong as greedy, corrupt, and corrupting as when Stewart first landed there.
Writing with the same fine style and observant eye that distinguished his previous novels, John Lanchester depicts a tumultuous time and place and then peoples it with extraordinary characters. The result is a novel that proves he is amongour most versatile and talented contemporary novelists-indeed, as The New York Timeswrote, "Lanchester is a commanding writer."
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - bodachliath - LibraryThing
I enjoyed this book hugely - a sort of history of Hong Kong since the 1930s told through the interlinked stories of 4 very different protagonists, full of rich descriptions and colourful characters ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Eyejaybee - LibraryThing
John Lanchester has, I believe, written four novels to date, all markedly different from each other in tone, and three of them ('The Debt to Pleasure', 'Capital' and this one) would all rank among my ... Read full review