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Noble House (Asian Saga) Paperback – May 19, 2009
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An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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“Clavell’s biggest triumph yet…storytelling done with dash and panache...a rousing read.” —Washington Post
“Fiction for addicts…extravagantly romantic…a book that you can get lost in for weeks…staggering complexity…not only is it as long as life, it’s also as rich with possibilities.” —New York Times
“Tremendous entertainment…a seamless marvel of pure storytelling.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A mesmerizer…spellbinding.” —Los Angeles Times
“Breathtaking…only terms like colossal, gigantic, titanic, incredible, unbelievable, gargantuan, are properly descriptive.…Clavell has made himself the king of super-adventure thrillers.” —Chicago Tribune Book World
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This book is, in a sense, a sequel to Clavell’s 1966 novel Tai-Pan. That book took place in 1842 after the British took control of Hong Kong after The first Opium War. This book takes place in 1963, and the current Taipan is Ian Dunruss, who is a relative of the original. The times have changed, but the characters and the motivations have not. The Taipan is the most predominant financial figure in British Hong Kong and wields tremendous power and influence. Everything revolves around this man and his Noble House, yet every other piranha in the Hong Kong business world would love to maliciously remove this powerful man and instate themselves in his place.
With the world now being more global in the 1960s, a pair of American wheeler-dealers arrive with the intention of throwing their hats in the ring the dethrone the Taipan as well. This pair is a “couple”. The man is Lincoln Bartlett, the woman is Casey Tcholock. Are they lovers? Well, sort of. Primarily though, they’re both ruthless businesspeople who care more about power than they do courtship, so we never see the two intimate with each other for very long. Of course, they’re both fairly young and quite beautiful. Especially Casey. Sadly, though, in Asia in the 1960s, she’s a woman in a man’s world and is never quite taken seriously. The fact that both of these individuals will gladly sleep with other people in order to gain a competitive advantage is, apparently a necessary arrangement of their partnership as well.
Truthfully, this book doesn’t really revolve around ‘people’ that much. There are simply too many characters for us to keep track. There are so many main players in this story that one can’t possibly remember many details of the entire cast. Once you accept this fact and remember that everyone’s motivation is greed and that everyone is calmly trying to stab everyone else in the back, the story will flow much better and one’s brain doesn’t feel as it will explode due to all the details. There’s an awful lot of financial lingo here as well. It seemed as though I came across the phrase “sell-short” about 100 times while reading. Again though, give Clavell credit for writing a book in such a way that one doesn’t get overwhelmed with such minutia over a +1,200-page book.
There’s also a fair bit of romance here; a lengthy subplot involving clandestine Russian and Chinese communists, and a couple of natural and man-made disasters that are all thrown into the book as well. Curiously, the entire story only takes place over about eight days. I imagine the average reader would take eight weeks to finish this thing. I also can’t imagine the author writing this mammoth piece of work in less than eight years. It’s quite a packed piece of work.
In addition to being a sequel to Tai-pan, there’s also a few characters from Clavell’s earliest novel King Rat. While it’s not necessary to read King Rat, I would recommend starting with Tai-Pan before reading this one. On a related note, though, both Tai-Pan and Noble House are quite lengthy and I can’t imagine reading these things back-to-back. (I read about 50 books per year, yet I can only handle about 1 James Clavell per year.)
One needs patience and perseverance before reading a book like this, and I’m sure many impatient people will give up before they’re not very far into it. One should proceed slowly, and not be too concerned if they forget what the motivations of all of the characters are. If done properly, one will succeed. Ironically, the same behaviors I just described are very similar to what the Taipan needs to do to maintain his control and empire. Not an easy job for most. Does Ian Dunross pull it off? Well, you’ll just have to read the 1,200 pages yourself to find out.
Readers not deterred by the previous paragraph will be rewarded by a very compelling novel. It cannot be read in one sitting, but it remains a tome which one puts aside only with great regret when each day ends. Fortunately, I read this book during the pandemic lockdown and it was far more rewarding than anything on the entertainment channels. This if course true of all of James Clavell's books, but the setting and complexity if this one made it special for me.
Top international reviews
I think some of the romance could have been more tightly edited, which is why it doesn’t quite rank with his best. Read the saga in historical order not as they were written start with Shogun. Read King Rat before this.
Still worth reading but I must confess I was glad to get to the end of it!