Thursday, December 10, 2009

Harbour by Paul House

Harbour is a novel about Hong Kong society in the months leading up to the 1941 invasion of Hong Kong by Japan. It is a time of great contrast, of decadence and deficiency, of prejudice and acceptance, of greed, and of love and hate.
Molly is a young girl of mixed blood caught between two worlds; those of her Chinese mother and her American military father, Willard Russell. Willard is wheelchair bound in Hong Kong and near destitute. He sends for his wife and daughter who must make an onerous journey from their home in China to Hong Kong. Along the way, Molly’s mother dies and Willard must now raise his young daughter alone and in poverty.

When Willard receives an invitation to allow Molly to become the companion of the beautiful Tung Nien, the wife of a Chinese drug overlord and head of the Dragon Triad group, Chen Liew, under the guidance of Miss Dekyvere an ex-pat making her home in Hong Kong, he readily accepts. Deep in the throes of grief, Willard drinks himself into daily stupors. He soon meets Kenji, a Japanese barber who becomes his mentor.

Dr. Laughton and his wife Mary are childless and their marriage is failing. The moment Dr. Laughton sets his eyes on Tung Nien, he is intrigued by Tung Nien and lusts for her. Bored with her loveless, sexless marriage, Tung Nien begins a heated affair with Dr. Laughton.

As the days of the imminent invasion grow closer, the lives of the novel’s characters intertwine, enmesh, and collide. Their lives spin out of control and degrade. Each must confront their own destiny in search of happiness.

Paul House does an excellent job of displaying his characters with all their faults and strengths. Like a tapestry, he weaves their lives together, sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in ways most detrimental to their lives. This keeps the interest strong throughout the story. Not only does he depict the political climate, he also includes the criminal element, the drug trade, in the story.

If you’re interested in reading a good novel in a unique setting, then this is a good one to pick up.
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