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James Clavell's Tai-Pan Hardcover – Apr 1983

4.7 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038529218X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385292184
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 5.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,411,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


''Grand entertainment…packed with action…gaudy and flamboyant with blood and sin, treachery and conspiracy, sex and murder…fresh and vigorous.'' --New York Times

''A fabulous epic of the Far East that will disturb and excite you…a thrilling and enticing tale of adventure and human relationships…dramatic episodes, exotic vignettes, and heady descriptive passages.'' --Baltimore Sun --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

James Clavell (1921-1994) was a novelist, screenwriter, director, and World War II veteran and prisoner of war. He is best known for his epic 'Asian Saga' series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with screenplays for such films as The Great Escape, The Fly, and To Sir, with Love. His books Noble House and Whirlwind were #1 New York Times bestsellers.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
James Clavell began his Asian Saga with "Tai-Pan," and in doing so brought the Far East to life in an unparalleled fashion.
"Tai-Pan" tells the story of Dirk Struan, Tai-Pan ("Supreme Leader") of Struan's, more popularly known as the Noble House. First in everything (money, influence, panache, daring, etc.), the Noble House has tied its future to the rise of Hong Kong, which is "founded" in the book's first chapter.
Struan, who has founded the Noble House with the vast fortune he built as an opium smuggler along the Chinese coast (many of the trading houses in "Tai Pan" owe their fortunes to opium smuggling, although they euphemistically refer to themselves as "China Traders"), has used his influence in Britain and with certain Chinese figures to take Hong Kong for the British crown as a toehold in China. Guided by his near-mystical vision of the importance of China to the world's future (at this point, China is considered by many Europeans to be a profitless wasteland populated by "heathens"), Struan will fight and kill to defend Hong Kong.
Newly widowed, Struan is comforted by his Chinese lover, May-May, who is also one of Clavell's most wonderful characters. Teetering on the verge of a stereotypical "dragon lady," May-May is a woman of courage, cunning, refinement, humor, and great beauty. Clavell lets May-May speak in both English (hilarious malaprops abound) and in Chinese so the reader gets a true picture of May-May's intelligence. Prejudices being what they were, Struan is forced to keep May-May under wraps, as it were, although the legend of the Tai Pan's Chinese mistress abound.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Unlike many of the previous reviewers, I have no particular connection to Asia or an extensive knowledge of Chinese history, rather I am merely a fan of exciting stories and great writing and if the novel is full of interesting facts, then all the better. Tai-Pan fits the bill.
It is an engaging story about the European community in China just after the British have taken control of Hong Kong. It centers on Dirk Struan, a manipulative, shrewd, and charismatic man who happens to be the most powerful trader in Asia. There is intrigue, violence, romance and tragedy, but this all adds flavor to the epic story of how the British controlled their first stronghold in Asia. Clavell does an amazing job of creating realistic characters and incorporaring facts about the time period and his knowledege of the culture. Despite being a fictional account of this era, I learned a great deal about China, British trade and sailing in the 1800's.
I would recommend this book to everyone who enjoys historical fiction or just great writing and good stories. Further, this book is at least as good as Shogun and is a critical component of the Asia Saga, so it is a must read for people who enjoy Clavell's other books.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tai-Pan is James Clavell's second published novel and is loosely based on the history of Jardine Matheson. This is my favorite in Clavell's "Asian Saga." The setting is Hong Kong in 1841. The British have just secured the island from the Chinese following the Treaty of Cheupi and Dirk Struan, Tai-Pan (supreme leader) of the Noble House, has staked his life and his company's future there. Struan and the other China traders smuggle opium into China to trade for bullion used to buy tea for England. Together, they've made vast fortunes, but no one more than Struan himself--the Noble House is the most powerful company in the Far East. Struan's struggle to maintain his dominance over his chief rival, Tyler Brock, and the other traders provides plenty of thrilling action. This is an exciting novel of piracy, politics, conspiracy, love and loathing. A multi-plotted tale that'll keep you turning pages--you won't be able to put this book down! And what's more, the story isn't resolved until the very last page...the last sentence, in fact.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
2.5 stars.
I'll be honest: this book may have a good portrayel of English and Chinese customs and good historical accuracy (I'm guessing), but that's not what I was really looking for, not in a fiction book, anyway. What I look for in fiction, any fiction, is a book that's gripping and entertaining from start to finish. For that to happen the first thing you need is good characterization, which I think Clavell does reasonably well in this book, and secondly, ACTION. I found this book lacking in the latter. For an interesting book you need some type of coflict, tension, and this book really didn't have that much. Shogun(which is a 5 star book) had plenty to keep you interested, and I was hooked, and the only times that I got bored were a few sporadic instances scattered throughout the book that didn't last more than three pages. There was a lot of action, lots of conflict, characters' fates were uncertain, war was looming in the distance... There's a war in this book but it's only in the background, and there's no doubt that the British will easily defeat the Chinese, so there's no conflict there. Basically the only real conflict in this book is the enmity between Struan and his rival, Brock. Might have been a good sub-conflict, but as the forefront of a 700 page book makes the book lacking in terms of enjoyment. This book is divided into six parts. There's really only two sections of the book where there was enough action and conflict to get me really interested. The first was the ending of book one, and the second was of course the climax. The rest of the book, books two, three, four, and most of five, is mainly talking, planning, fretting, Struan arguing with his mistress, and more talking. It gets boring real fast, and then it gets REALLY boring.
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