Summary: pirates, gold, guns, Hong Kong, glory
Comment: This book probably got me first interested in historical fiction. Wildly entertaining at the same time vastly informative regarding the early days of Hong Kong and the early era of global trade. Many of the events portrayed feel like they resonate into the present. Even reading it in the days of my infancy as a reader, its length did not at all get in the way of its being a highly compelling read. Actually, this work may have been among the first to have brought me to appreciate the ultimate payoff in investing in the reading of good book. Certainly got me to read more and read more.
Summary: Fantastical good in spite of the fact I didn't really enjoy reading it
Comment: Shogun was kind of an odd book for me because even though I loved it, really loved, I didn't really enjoy reading it. The same thing happened with "Tai-Pan."
This is a highly political and informative novel about the opium-tea-silver trade and the beginnings of British Hong Kong but it's more tedious somehow because there is so much conversation compared to the action parts of the book and the bitter rivalries between the traders can be hard to understand.
In spite of all this something about this book left me a little awed. Most likely it was May-may, the Tai-Pan's (a kind of king/leader/president of company) Chinese mistress who with her exuberant spirit and hilarious English made parts of this book a joy. Maybe it was the education I got on how hard a group of drug smugglers really fought to hold on to a worthless piece of rock which would one day be one of the world's greatest harbors. Maybe it was the completeness of the ending. Maybe it's magic. Who knows. But this is a great book even if I didn't really like it.
Anyway you put it this book is "fantastical good" (as May-may) would say but it lacks the emotion of "Shogun" and was at times a bit like wading through sand. In spite of all this I feel compelled to give it a five star rating. Read it and you'll find out why.
Summary: Top 5 Book List
Comment: This is on my Top 5 Book list.
Dirk Struan is a remarkable character, I believe the stongest male character to become part of a book. If you like stories blended with history, culture and a strong protagonist, you'll ove it. James Clavell alongside Frederick Forsyth and Noah Gordon are the top writers for this type of reading.
Summary: Terrific historical novel...
Comment: "Tai Pan" is, of course, one of the books in James Clavell's "asian sagas" and in my opinion it ties with "Shogun" (chronologically the earlier of the two) as the best. The later books forego some of the adventure and get too involved for my taste...
Its about the opening of China to world trade in general, and the development of Hong Kong in particular. The main character is Dirk Struan, a Scotsman, adventurer, and self-made man of his time.
There's lots of good reviews about the plot already posted here, so I won't review that other than to say it moves VERY well... I will offer a few thoughts by way of a review:
I haven't researched it, but wonder if Struan is based on a real life character in the way that John Blackthorne (the Angin-san of "Shogun") was based on a real Englishman named William Adams (look him up on Wikipedia; fascinating life). I would not be surprised if there is a historical basis for Dirk Struan.
Some of the opulence described in "Tai Pan" is a bit fantastical, but thats ok - it does not harm the book. Clavell also does a great job of simplifying a complicated subject, namely the world trade of the era, the opium-silver-tea trade, and really hits on the 'clash of cultures' of Asia vs the expanding Western world.
I mentioned opulence above. I've noticed that in both "Shogun" and "Tai Pan" theres a definite pre-occupation with the subject of cleanliness and food. Interestingly, Clavell as a kid or young man was a prisoner of the Japanese in WW2. He was held in the notorious Changi Prison where he experienced the brutality, neglect, and culture clash between Europeans in Asia and the militarism and rascism of the latter years of the Japanese Empire. These POWs - military or civilian internees - all experienced hunger, filth, neglect, random violence, lack of medicine, etc etc in a horrible environment... Seems to me this is the source of Clavell's recurring descriptions of food and cleanliness. I think this definitely shows in his earlier "asian saga" books. So I can't help wondering if in his books, CLavell was dreaming of an Asia adventure as he wished he could have experienced it, as opposed to the ordeal he himself went through in prison... Just an idea.
Great book; I highly recommend it.
Summary: Review of Tai-Pan
Comment: Tai-Pan is a very good book and definitely worth reading especially if you are interested in China and Hong Kong. It is the story about the development of Hong Kong by the British and the three rival trading companies that compete against each other. It also has a lot of historical facts throughout which I felt enhanced the story tremendously. This is definitely a great and unique story and very well researched by the author. I thought the characters in this book were believable and very strong.
This book is not one that I would describe as an easy read. Like Shogun, it requires your full attention or else you will be lost. It is somewhat of a committment to read not only because of its length but also because of the dialogue. It's kind of slow reading. I do not think everyone will enjoy this book. I think men will definitely like it more than women. There are quite a few characters and it is important to remember who is who.
The ending of this book was definitely a surprise to me. I was certainly not expecting it to end like it did.
I will admit that this book was not nearly as good as Shogun. I loved Shogun, for it is one of my favorite books of all time. So if you are expecting that kind novel out of Tai-Pan I think you might be disappointed. However, this book was really entertaining and I am glad that I read it!