Reviewed: James Clavell’s Noble House

"The Epic Novel of Modern Hong Kong"

James Clavell’s Noble House is a novel about one week in the life of a Hong Kong business executive in 1963.  And it’s 1370 pages long.

No, wait, don’t stop reading!  That wouldn’t have enticed me, either, but it’s actually one of the most fascinating and exciting things I’ve ever read.  It’s full of espionage, drug gangs, political plots, natural disasters, kidnapping, hostile takeovers, seduction, ancient oaths being called into fulfillment…and, yes, quite a few business negotiations.

A story this large and detailed could be approached from many angles (I’d love to discuss its use of Chinese words and phrases–this book is packed with Chinese culture and treats it with unreserved reverence), but the biggest surprise for me was just how political Noble House is.

I guess I should have expected it.  The book is dedicated “as a tribute to Her Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth II, to the people of Her Crown Colony of Hong Kong—and perdition to their enemies.”  So the author’s perspective is pretty clear from the get go.

Noble House is a cold war novel—communist spies and leftist traitors abound.  Continue reading

A Bailout Lesson From The Past

Two days after the nationwide tea party protests, I’m sitting in an office waiting to be called up to the window.  As I pass the time reading, I come across this, during a conversation about hypothetically bailing out failing banks:

“But there’s no reason why any bank should do what you suggest, it never has in the past.  Each bank stands or falls on its own merits, that’s the joy of our free enterprise system.  Such a scheme as you propose would set a dangerous precedent.  It would certainly be impossible to prop up every bank that was mismanaged.”

–James Clavell, Noble House, 1981