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James Clavell's Tai-Pan [Hardcover]

James Clavell
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1983

It is the early 19th century, when European traders and adventurers first began to penetrate the forbidding Chinese mainland. And it is in this exciting time and exotic place that a giant of an Englishman, Dirk Straun, sets out to turn the desolate island of Hong Kong into an impregnable fortress of British power, and to make himself supreme ruler…Tai-Pan!

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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“Unforgettable!”—Chicago Tribune

“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

“Clavell is, as always, a matchless tale-spinner.”—Cosmopolitan

“Every five or six years there appears on the horizon a book so vast in scope, so peopled with bold, colorful characters, it eclipses other efforts…. Such a book is Tai-Pan.”Pittsburgh Press

“Grand entertainment...packed with action...gaudy and flanboyant with blood and sin, treachery and conspiracy, sex and murder...fresh and vigorous.” —New York Times

From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

James Clavell, who died in 1994, was a screenwriter, director, producer, and novelist born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Although he wrote the screenplays for a number of acclaimed films, including The Fly (1958), The Great Escape (1963), and To Sir With Love (1967), he is best known for his epic novels in his Asian Saga.

From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Kick-Off to Clavell's Asian Saga May 24 2004
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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5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Worth a Look April 29 2004
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A "GODROTTING" GOOD READ! Jan. 4 2004
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Drags. July 15 2003
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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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
great, good for a repeat read
Published 28 days ago by Bob van Riezen
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for its price
I have read the book twice before about 40 years ago and am still
Impressed by it. I have read all of James Clavell's books, before and
am doing it again as he was a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Harold Watkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book in the series
I just had to buy this book to complete the series. Anything written by James Clavell is a worthwhile read and never a disappointment.
Published 12 months ago by R. Papp
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
Very enjoyable, I anticipated the ending. I would have liked the conclusion to have been different, however I would recommend the book.
Published 14 months ago by John
4.0 out of 5 stars If 'A MUST READ' ever applies, it's to this book!
I'm an avid reader, have been my whole life, and I'm in love with Asia. At first, this book starts off rather slowley, giving you the low-down on basic history and building the... Read more
Published on April 28 2004 by "jillychan"
5.0 out of 5 stars The Asia Saga moves to Hong Kong
Clavell's Asia Saga is a masterpiece of historical fiction. In this edition, Clavell captures the creation of a great trading house amidst several themes common to the... Read more
Published on April 20 2004 by therosen
5.0 out of 5 stars Clavell at his best
Just doesn't get better than this. I'd say it ranks right up with Shogun. The entire book is filled with everything you could ask for in a book (intrigue, suspense, action,... Read more
Published on March 26 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Shogun
...there are many similarities between "Shogun" and "Tai-pan", only the first is about Japan in 17th century, and the second is about China/Hong Kong in 19th century. Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by J R Zullo
4.0 out of 5 stars A dazzling novel
James Clavell was second to none in decribing the charcters' reasining process. The reader can think he actually knows the characters. Read more
Published on March 16 2003 by Francisco Ramirez Espa˝a
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