i read it at home, on the tube, at work, in bed, at the gym, in the shower (ok, so not actually in the shower)... i simply couldn't stop; i had to know what was going to happen next and whether pao's latest scheme would come off.
told in the first person, the story spans the life of yang pao from his arrival in jamaica as a young boy to his ascension to the position of 'godfather' of chinatown. pao is guided by the social and philosophical ideals of his mentor and step father, zhang and the writings of sun tzu as he attempts to manage events at home and in business.
yang pao is inexplicably, compellingly loveable despite his misdeeds and the rhythm and flow of his narrative make this an easy page turner (even for someone like me who generally has little interest in reading about history and politics). yes, the signposts for dates are not always clear (especially to the politically ignorant) and yes, the story spans a vast time period over what can seem like too few pages, but for me this is symptomatic of being swept up on pao's journey, observing as he does, discovering as he does, regretting as he does without being bogged down by mundane description so many authors seem preoccupied with (i was going to ask "who wants to know what a character had for dinner?", but in this case i most definitely did!!). nonetheless, the pace of the story is not at the expense of the little details and pao's matter-of-fact, often comical perspective on life is what makes the book. can't wait to read gloria's side of the story!
don't be put off by the historical, political and philosophical undertones, for whilst 'pao' encompasses all of these disciplines, it is essentially a book about life and family.