Luk, Henry. (2000). The Heir. New York: Tor.

The Heir is another Hong Kong novel which closely follows James Clavell’s Noble House (1981) template and in fact explicitly invokes and pays homage to both Noble House and Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather. The story centres on the lives of the billionaire Chang family which wields significant social, political and economic influence in the territory. Explicit connections to The Godfather trilogy is made through the heavily fortified compound the Chang’s inhabit on the Peak and the presence of the consigliere (advisor) Qiao Quichen, also called Tom after Tom Hagen in The Godfather.

The novel begins with the marriage of Beth Connor, an Irish American woman, to Michael the second son and heir to the Chang empire. Beth is a former member of the American Olympic team and a Harvard graduate and the narrative mainly focuses on Beth’s struggle to be accepted and eventually become an influential member of the family. Due to, Fredrick, Micahel’s elder brother’s debilitating illness, and the failing health of Chang Wing Hing, the patriarch, Michael and Beth are forced to assume responsibility for the family empire.

The 1997 handover of Hong Kong and the Asian financial crisis figure in the narrative and Beth Connor’s intelligence and adaptation to what are presented as the subtleties of doing business in Asia allow her to save the Chang business empire from bankruptcy. This cements her position in the Chang family. She wins the patriarch’s admiration and also defeats Michael’s siblings who attempt to marginalize her by discriminating against her non-Chineseness and the fact that her connection to the family is only through marriage.

The Heir features the kind of popular exotic discourse of “joss” (luck or fate), “guanxi” (influence gained through familial and personal connections) and the obliqueness of Chinese culture that figure in Clavell’s fiction. It also appears to privilege the western feminine subject (the American female in this instance) as more liberal, confident and capable than its eastern counterpart. It also endorses the “one country two systems” dictum by which Hong Kong’s political and administrative relationship with the Mainland is officially characterised. Beth Connor saves the Chan empire through a deal with a senior Mainland official and this is clearly marked in the text as an instance of how the communist leadership is pragmatic and is willing to accommodate capitalist interests which are mutually beneficial. In this sense the text’s imaging of the Mainland and the communist regime is relatively positive and business is seen as a discourse that can transcend ideological differences. (HR)


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