If you want some perspective into China’s stock market then you’ll want to read (or re-read in my case) Noble House by James Clavell.
‘This is for Ayn Rand – one of the real, true talents on this earth for which many, many thanks. James C, New York, 2 Sept 81’ – written on a copy of ‘Noble House’ sent to Ayn Rand whose writing James Clavell admired.
As the fifth installment in the ‘Asian Saga’ this massive story brings together major stories and bloodlines from previous novels in the Asian Saga.
The Struans – Clavell’s capitalist vanguards are at the helm of affairs in ‘Noble House’ under the stewardship of Ian Dunross – the tai-pan since 1960. Dunross is young and aggressive but tempered, ice-cool and unperturbed with millions at stake at sea and on the bourses. He is an adrenaline junkie of an older generation with a bias for fast cars, helicopters and horses; but his most striking feature is utter fearlessness in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – the most enjoyable parts of the story have to do with trouble-shooting and negotiations.
The backdrop is the prestige of being the largest business in Hong-Kong, or the NobleHouse, with Struans’ position threatened by Rothwell-Gornt. The bitter rivalry between the Struans and Rothwell-Gornt goes back many generations to Dirk Struan and Tyler Brock who fought it out since the days preceding the establishment of modern-day Hong-Kong.
Closing in on destroying the Struans is tai-pan of Rothwell-Gornt – Quillian Gornt. And thrown in to these games of amalgamations, hostile takeovers and sabotage is American industrialist Linc Bartlett and his beautiful CEO Casey Tcholok.
Though the characters are clearly defined protagonists, antagonists and anti-heroes ‘Noble House’ has no good-guys versus bad-guys morals and happily defined endings. This feature, coupled with cumbersome sections of Hong-Kong’s local culture is at odds with the fast-pace of the main plot, and makes the book suitable for mature readers only.
Another gripping theme running throughout is the history of the Noble House, with anecdotes and stories from another time dotting the book. From Dirk Struan’s legendary exploits and his mysterious Chinese mistress May-May to promises made by him binding all succeeding generations of tai-pans.
The story starts by narrating Dunross’ induction as tai-pan of Struans in the presence of the outgoing tai-pan in a closely guarded ceremony with confidential oaths taken and deep secrets disclosed for the tai-pan to bear. Dunross tenure as tai-pan is marred with adversity in business conditions and rivalries, betrayals from within, and being called upon to make good on Dirk Struan’s (expensive) promises.