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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 May 2003
Initially when I picked up this book I expected to be slightly disappointed as I believed there was no way it could measure up to the awesome Shogun by the same author. How wrong I was! If anything this is even better and is a more rounded story featuring an ending, something which Clavell in Shogun seemed to forget to write.
Dirk Struan is a neatly nuanced hero and the wily Brock along with his betsial son Gorth make compelling brutish enemies. Tai-Pan is the kind of historical novel which does not deserve the scorn that is often poured on the genre. Quite simply, adventure storytelling at its best.
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on 2 June 2003
I first read Shogun because of an interest in all things Japanese. Having liked Clavell's writing style so much, I decided to read more of his books. I wasn't disappointed. Tai-Pan is even better than Shogun. The characterisation is excellent and makes you love a character who is essentially a bit of a pirate. Now hooked on the fortunes of the Struan Company, I have to read the complete set.
Death and damnation to Tyler Brock and all his descendants!!!
Long live the Noble House.
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on 7 December 2002
Tai-Pan tells the true story of the largest trading company in Asia, and how he succeceded in making Hong Kong British.
The story itself cannot be summarised, I have never read a book with so much attention to detail. Dozens of subplots, Deadly Intrique,Manipulation,Sex,Politics,War,rivalries. Just an all round Epic which evryone must read!
Clavell creates rich characters which you will remember for many a year, Straun,Orlov and Quance stand out. He mixes Drama with Action, Action with Humor,etc and sub-plots which seem impossibly entwined.
You will be transported to a different world, one you will not want to leave.
One of the greatest books I have ever read, everyone should read at least once a year.
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on 3 November 2014
James Clavell is a master of his art, and Tai-Pan is a highly readable novel. That said, it lacks the force of the earlier-set Shogun, and I found it weaker as a historical novel. Set in 1840-2, during the first Opium War, Tai-Pan revolves around the foundation of the colony of Hong Kong. The somewhat romantic view is that the island was meant to bridge the Chinese and Western civilizations and bring modernity to China. Dirk Struan, a Scot, is the Tai-Pan, the boss of the biggest British trading house. He battles it out with his fellow merchant and arch-rival Brock, with Chinese pirates, and with pompous consular officials for survival and especially to make sure his creation - the colony, just granted to Britain by the defeated Chinese - also survives. The Tai-Pan must escape bankruptcy, murder, and disrepute, while at the same time ensuring his weakling son is made fit to succeed him. The cast is, as usual in Clavell, operatic, also involving many minor characters - the young and penniless English libertine, the Tai-Pan's half-caste son, etc., and multiple colourful side-plots.

While this makes for good reading as an adventure novel, I nevertheless found Tai-Pan mildly disappointing after Shogun - admittedly a hard act to follow. The novel lacks the breakneck start of its predecessor. The hero is not based on a historical character - or else if he is meant to be based on Lindsay or Jardine, the characterisation is grossly off. The history is less reliable, and indeed the Opium War itself is more or less ignored, with no mention even of the siege of Canton. The rather nasty opium trade, of course, is also glossed over. Then the East-meets-West characterisation relies on often similar stereotyping of both Europeans and Orientals - about the importance of saving face, about cleanliness or the lack thereof among Europeans - as in Shogun, so that mores are not found to have changed very much in the intervening 250 years, or to be that different between Japan and China. Clavell remains worth reading for sheer entertainment, and I'll probably persevere with the Asian Saga one at a time and at a safe intervals. But Tai Pan is a weak four stars as a historical novel.
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on 22 June 2015
Like many others I imagine, I came to this book after having thoroughly enjoyed Shogun. (Except for the ending where James Clavell seemed to have run out of paper/time/motivation to properly finish the book.)

Just like Shogun this book paints a very vivid picture of its location and time with a cast of believable characters. However, where as with Shogun I became instantly associated with the protagonist, with this book I simply did not find any character that I particularly rooted for. Reading a book where you really do not care whatever happens to any of the characters rapidly becomes a very monotonous experience. After about 100 pages or so I give up.

Perhaps, I would have thought differently had I not come straight from reading Shogun. With Shogun there is far more about the local culture which I really enjoyed. This is primarily because Shogun is set in a world where there are a few foreign characters who have to adapt to the local customs to survive. This book is far more about a set of predominantly British characters shaping their own environment, against a Chinese background. (Although I did find the background information about the British and the opium trade interesting.)

Maybe I will pick this book up and try it again later. If I can soldier on a bit further the book might just catch my imagination as Shogun did. However, at the moment I don't feel any strong desire to attempt that.
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on 6 June 2006
I was recommended this book by a friend of mine and started to read it with trepidation. (Long book and I was unsure whether I would be that interested in the era/genre).

However...by about page 50 or so, I was grabbed by the throat and dragged into a story line so compelling that I literally could not put the book down. I would challenge anyone with an ounce of imagination not to love this book.
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on 11 January 2016
Shogun was excellent. Alas, this is far from excellent. The story is interesting but the main character is annoying and unbelieveable on almost every level. A paragon of every virtue, taller and more successful than everyone else, more dynamic and self-satisfied, luckier, never in doubt about any of his actions, wealthier and more handsome. He 'discovers' and creates Hong Kong single handedly, organises the British Empire in Asia practically alone, finds the cure for malaria while no one else can, can get out of debt without really trying, can sail a ship as captain, was at Trafalgar yet still on slave ships (which of course he hated) and , supposedly, is well endowed to boot. Add to all that the fact that every other character is a cardboard cartoon creation and you just end up disliking him and wanting the book to end. So poor after the excellent Shogun. Advise? Give it a miss.
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on 4 July 2016
Bought this for a friend but, had a quick sneak wizz through it to remind myself of it. What a great story, ok here and there a bit of licence taken maybe with the dates and actual reality but hey, still a great story and kindof makes you proud of a bit of heritage somehow too. High tim somebody got a load of dosh and a good set of actors tgether and made a superb blockbuster film of this, I know someone tried years ago to do a low budget version which, being generous, wasn't the worst film I've seen but imagine if spielberg or someone really good took it on. Loadsa money too.
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on 1 May 2014
I read this book more than 10 years ago, and I loved it. I have bought the Kindle edition avoiding to carry a bulky book around. I love Tai-Pan now, as much as I did ten years ago. It's a fantastic book.
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on 17 October 2015
Every bit as good as I remembered it from a first read many years ago. One of the greatest adventure novels ever written. Full of action, great characters, drama, twists and turns. A book that's hard to put down and a delight to pick up.
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