The Nail House
Fairlight Moderns Novella
by Gregory Baines
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 01 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 20 Aug 2019
‘Absorbing, with twists and turns.’ - Mobo Gao, Professor of Chinese Studies, University of Adelaide
‘With the subtlest of touches, Baines succeeds in capturing the competing desires and concerns of a nation’s inexorable rise.’ - Susie Gordon, Editor at Alluvium
Average rating from 21 members
A young, recently divorced Australian takes a high-paying job in China with one assignment: convince an old man, the last home owner in the path of a planned high-rise, to sell his house. Lindon knows no Chinese and seems ignorant of Chinese business practices, but he gives it his best shot, and in the meantime he meets the man's soon-to-be-married daughter and falls in love with her. Complications definitely ensue. I did wonder if it's likely Lindon would have been hired for such a job, but his white face may have been a factor. The story itself is interesting and enjoyable, but with an ending that also seemed unlikely. However, my own familiarity with Chinese ways and with the current situation on the ground there is limited, so who's to say? I can say the novella was enjoyable and stayed with me, and that's a positive result for fiction.
Almost five years ago, I bought a house for myself. I painted. I bought appliances and furniture. I planted a back garden. I have plans to makeover some of the rooms in the future. All of this is to make this house even more of a home for myself. There are few places I feel more comfortable and relaxed, to be honest. I’m so proud of myself for working hard and saving enough money to get this place. So I can understand why the patriarch of the Yi family does not want to leave his home, in spite of the offers from a development company that has bought up the properties around the family home and is in the process of building a high rise apartment complex. In The Nail House, by Gregory Baines, we see the battle for a small plot of land in an unnamed Chinese city from the perspective of Zhen Yi and Lindon, an Australian man who has been hired to negotiate that last land acquisition. A nail house is the Chinese term for a real estate holdout. The name comes from the way that that these houses stick up like nails that need to be banged down. By the time that the novella opens, things have escalated to the point where Zhen’s father is under siege and the family is starting to crack under the strain. Zhen is relieved to get out, as she is moving in with her fiancé in a few days. The quotes from The Art of War at the beginning of each chapter heighten the imagery. Lindon, who has come to China to get away from his acrimonious divorce and to get a big pay out, is not prepared for what he has been hired to do. Nor is he prepared for the sheer amount of alcohol it takes to do big business in China. Zhen and Lindon are thrown together through a series of coincidental meetings. Lindon is so out of his depth that Zhen takes a grudging pity on the hapless foreigner, who is drunk to the point of vomiting in the streets far too often. While the two keep bumping into each other, Lindon tries to work out his feelings and Zhen struggles with the path her life is taking. Zhen’s life is following an expected path towards marriage, a better apartment, and stability. Because this is a novella, all of this happens at a breakneck pace. We start with a modern-day siege, drift into sort of a romance, before ending up with an explosive, surprising conclusion. I think it only took me a couple of hours to read The Nail House. Sadly, this wasn’t quite enough for me. I wanted more of Lindon’s maturation as a person. I definitely wanted more of Zhen’s more complicated journey and the battles over the Yi’s nail house. That said, I found The Nail House very satisfying. I will absolutely recommend this to readers looking for a quick read with plenty of psychological depth.
After a failed marriage back in Australia, Lindon finds himself taking a job as a project manager in China. But his dreams of an easy job with steady pay evaporates when he is asked to demolish a certain ‘Nail house’ that sits right in the middle of the construction site. Its owner is a proud man who refuses to budge, and would rather have his beloved house attached every night than move to a more secure and permanent location. Zhen, the resident of this “Nail House’ wants nothing more than to move out with her fiancee Sun to a modern, air-conditioned flat and live a happy and contented life. When Zhen and Lindon’s paths cross in a bar in a drunken state, they know that they aren’t;t particularly fond of each other. But love has blossomed amidst war and these are just two vulnerable human souls waiting for cupid to strike. With quotes from ‘The Art of War’ this romance, with an abundance of thrill had me engrossed for the better part. The story is fairly simple, and if you are smarter than me, predictable. But I was invested in the characters, taking this journey with them and silencing loving, hating and judging each one of them. The whole backdrop of ‘The Nail House’ and its associated attacks and problems supports this budding love story so well. Lindon is a man hopelessly in love with a girl he can’t have and Zhen wants more from life than what Sun has to offer. Lindon’s simplicity and honestly will definitely win hearts. Whereas Zhen is daring and dreams on and has her life planned out for her. ‘The Nail House’ is thrilling, engaging and at times, adorable. It’s a book that can very well be finished in one sitting, so please pick it up because this romance will keep you invested.