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Night in Shanghai

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  771 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.

Song Yuhua is refined, educated,
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2014)
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“Tell me the style of the piece.”
“The way I was playing it, with that arpeggiated left hand and the melodic, singing right hand - that would be a nocturne. A piece for the night.”
“Like Ye Shanghai,” she said. “Yes, Night in Shanghai.”
“Call it that. It belongs to this city.”

When pianist Thomas Greene arrived in Shanghai from Baltimore in 1936 to lead a Jazz band he never expected to feel such freedom. Freedom to mix socially, the freedom of being respected in his job and freedom to earn what
Jul 18, 2014 Aditi rated it really liked it
A forbidden love story set in the backdrop of Japanese invasion in Shanghai will totally going to awe your mind by its passion, pain and sacrifice amidst of war and bloodshed. Nicole Mones, an American author, has penned down a riveting love story based on the true events during the Japanese invasion in Shanghai in 1936.

If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself.... If yo
May 23, 2014 Renata rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, ww1-and-ww11
Mones has written a thoroughly captivating book set in Shanghai in the late 1930's just before and the during the Japanese take over of the city. We arrive on Shanghai w Thomas a young Afr Am musician, classically trained, who is being thrust into a jazz band when he knows little about jazz and its improvisational riffs and tempos. Mones is a fabulous writer and we are swept away w Thomas on this incomparable personal adventure as a musician, social adventure freed from racial prejudice - in fac ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I am thoroughly captivating by WWII. Fiction or non, it doesn't matter. If it relates to the war, it's a safe bet I'm in, which is what led me to Nicole Mones' Night in Shanghai.

Set against the glitz and glamour of China's jazz age, the book highlights a world rarely seen, a lifestyle and atmosphere about to fall victim to war and years of Japanese occupation, but this is only the beginning of its appeal.

Mones explores the
Jan 09, 2015 Ruthie rated it liked it
This is a wonderful story of a young black musician Thomas Greene, who, in 1936, leaves the segregated USA to work in as a band leader in Shanghai. The jazz scene in Shanghai in vibrant and open and accepting to blacks. However, Thomas is unaware that war is brewing between Japan and China as well as in Europe. Soon after finding success and respect in his new home the realities of war make themselves known.

Mones has included many real historical people in her story, including musicians, politi
Jun 25, 2016 Shomeret rated it it was amazing
Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones was recommended on a thread discussing The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden on the Goodreads group, African American Historical Fiction. These novels are linked by their African American musician protagonists and the fact that they both take place in World War II.

I already knew that the situation for Jews in WWII Shanghai was unique. I had an instructor in college who fled Germany in the 1930's and took refuge in Shanghai. It was from him that I first learne
Feb 01, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
Nicole Mones is one of my favorite writers. I've enjoyed her other novels and was excited to read "Night in Shanghai", not just because I love her writing, but also because it's a time period that I find fascinating.

This story, unlike others from WWII Shanghai, features a black jazz musician from Baltimore. Thomas Greene was one of many jazz musicians who found acceptance in 1930s Shanghai, a place without the segregation laws and other prejudices of the US. Greene falls for Song, an English-spe
Mar 06, 2014 Lissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I had the good fortune of attending a lecture put on by our local library in which Nicole Mones discussed her current novel and the historic events it covers, so of course I was thrilled to receive a copy of this novel through the Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway. During the years leading up to and entering into World War II, Shanghai was a fascinating mix of music, dance and international flair. Jazz musicians, primarily African Americans, were enticed to play in clubs for better pay and more free ...more
WTF Are You Reading?
Night In Shanghai is the story of a Shanghai on the precipice of war, a man between worlds, and a woman of opposing loyalties.
Nicole Mones has managed to seamlessly interlace the stories of African American band leader, Thomas Greene, interpreter and servant, Song Yuhua, and the onslaught of WWII.
Having just one of the above mentioned aspects of this epic tale handled with the historical precision, lyrical voice, and descriptive eye of a seasoned storyteller, would be enough to delight any reade
Apr 21, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was ok
Another book that I picked because I wanted to read it. I was in the mood for a good love story set in a foreign area. Sadly this book was not for me. I tried really hard to want to love or even like this book as I read so many did like this book. I did not fall in love with the characters. It was the location that did win me over. However this was not enough for me to stick with this book after a while. It started out slow. I then jumped a few chapters and started reading again. I was starting ...more
Cindy III
I wanted to read Night in Shanghai because it is set in Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s and it has an inter-ethnic couple. It was about the couple, but also the atmosphere of politics in China and war approaching, as well as the culture of Shanghai at the time. There were various groups of people living in Shanghai like french, jewish, americans and other internationals. That old world Shanghai fascinated me. I'm sad it no longer exists in the same way it did then.

What kept me from giving this a
Susan Weinberg
Mar 07, 2014 Susan Weinberg rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! I've read everything by Nicole Mones and this is one of my favorites. Beautifully written and very well researched. Filled with historical figures and spans a part of history with which I lacked much familiarity. A glimpse into the international city of Shanghai in the late 1930s and early 1940s with a focus on the black Americans in the jazz scene. This story soon intertwined with Japan invading China, the German and Austrian Jews escaping to Shanghai and the divisions between ...more
Dewayne Stark
Mar 20, 2014 Dewayne Stark rated it really liked it
Found the book in the new section of South Pasadena Library. I don't Google an author until I have finished the book and after I finished the book I went to the author's web site ( and found a very nice series of photographs about the story line of the book showing several of the real characters and places that are within the novel.

One page 143 I ran across the use of the word "microsecond". At that time (pre-1940) microsecond was a technical term that denoted 10-6 t
May 03, 2014 Kris rated it really liked it
Well, I found yet another WWII perspective that I knew nothing about... While this book was confusing to read at times (especially all the Chinese and Japanese names), I was able to follow enough to understand what was going on. Loved the American jazz musicians and later the Shanghai Jews. As all of her books, I was fully engaged with the characters and learned a lot.
Carol Atta
Mar 08, 2014 Carol Atta rated it it was amazing
Amazing work of historical fiction. I could literally smell the spicy scent of Shanghai and hear the music. What a n adventure. I hated that it had to end.
Ms. McFaul
Feb 13, 2017 Ms. McFaul rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook, bookclub
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erin Al-Mehairi
Apr 10, 2014 Erin Al-Mehairi rated it it was amazing
Night in Shanghai, by Nicole Mones, was a wonderful original and inspiring story. It featured a forbidden love story, but yet had so many other layers as well. It dealt with racism, the arts, culture (esp Asian vs. Western), war, servitude.

As much as I love history, and even really like Asian history, it was completely different to me for her to feature black musicians in the Chinese Jazz Age. I didn’t even know China had a jazz age, or any racism towards African-Americans. It was so wonderful o
Mar 15, 2014 Alexis rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alexis by: NPR
Shelves: fiction
I absolutely loved this book’s setting: 1930s Shanghai, as seen through the eyes of an African American jazz musician. Fascinating characters, fascinating setup, fascinating locale. I want to read more novels set in pre-war Shanghai - is there a shelf for that at the library?

The romance between Thomas and Song was totally perfunctory. (Unless it was symbolic of the intense but short-lived relationship between the western émigrés and their eastern host city? Possible, but if so it was totally los
Raven Haired Girl
Feb 15, 2015 Raven Haired Girl added it
Shelves: 2015
An African-American jazzman and his circle in prewar Shanghai.

The backdrop is affecting, riddled with tension as the future of China hangs in the balance as well as its people. A dual love story taking place in Shanghai 1936 during the Japanese invasion. Mones crafts a riveting story of forbidden love filled with passion, agony, sacrifice during pre/post war along with its carnage.

The characters are well developed, each offering a vital role in the narrative, their uniqueness along with their in
"Casablanca" set in China. This book included a history lesson I hadn't heard before: the Chinese (Nationalists) had a plan to save 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe by settling them in Yunnan. I knew Shanghai took in many (25,000) refugees. I didn't know that, if Chiang Kai-Shek hadn't caved in, there could have been many more.

This was so surprising to me that I thought the author was making it up, to add drama to the last third of the book. While the first half or so of the book does a very
Julia Alberino
Jan 13, 2015 Julia Alberino rated it really liked it
I got this book free in exchange for agreeing to discuss it online with other readers (and. it turned out, the author). My "followers" know I don't often give more than three starts, so why did I give four to "Night in Shanghai?" The story is engrossing; the main characters are interesting and well-developed; however, those are not the real reasons I awarded the fourth star. The real reason is that I learned so much from this novel: about Shanghai in the immediately-pre-World War II years; about ...more
Oct 20, 2014 Kila rated it it was amazing
Very good read. I grew up in the 50s & 60s so I was taught very little about China, this book told a great story while weaving a whole lot of history I never heard. Ho Feng-Shan saving over 1000 Jewish families from Nazi Austria should be taught in every school, along with the 1938 Evian conference where every country, including the U.S.A. and Great Britain refused to increase their immigration quota of European Jews. All 32 countries refused except Dominican Republic and Shanghai, which was ...more
Thomas Greene is a classically trained African-American who gets recruited to play at a jazz orchestra in Shanghai in 1936. He falls straight into love-lust with Song Yuhua, who has been sold into slavery to the crime lord that owns the jazz club where Thomas works.

The history felt very solid, but the pace was far too slow. The love story was also underwhelming. Thomas is with Song because...she's pretty? And he got tired of his Russian professional mistress? It clearly didn't work for me and I
Nastya Gurina
Jan 29, 2017 Nastya Gurina rated it really liked it
Historical fiction at its best. A fascinating story of music, love and desire, hope, family ties and human conflict in wartime Shanghai. You can hear jazz swing coming through the pages and taking you into the miraculous yet dangerous and dark world of Shanghainese districts.
Kristen Schrader (Wenke)
An interesting novel about how Shanghai was a haven for black jazz musicians and Jews during WWII.

I really enjoyed Thomas' and Song's story. But found the gang stuff confusing and a little boring.
Liz Wehrli
Jan 08, 2017 Liz Wehrli rated it really liked it
engaging piece of historical fiction. Explores a little known bit of nazi resistance based in China. Very likable protagonists.
Jan 28, 2017 Sara rated it liked it
I would give it 3.5. Fascinating tale of the Japanese invasion of Shanghai against a jazz background tho not entirely convinced by the "love story"
Jeanette Lewis
Mar 05, 2017 Jeanette Lewis rated it really liked it
The colourful language of insults of the Chinese in this book brought a smile to my lips. Whilst swearing in English is to the point, insults like “the dog’s fart” directed to an enemy general is so much more interesting. ‘Cursed dogs’ legs’ or ‘playing fiddle in his pants’. The Japanese are constantly referred to as brown dwarfs.
How China has changed since the time of WW2 and one can only admire their determination and success at becoming the powerhouse of today. Brutal times between the Natio
Feb 24, 2017 Franburdsall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I love historical fiction!!!
Dec 31, 2016 T rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, I've liked all her other ones, but honestly I had trouble getting through it.

Historical tale, dealing with Japan's occupation of China and the Jewish that were sheltered there. Chinese girl, who provides translation services to a bigwig. African American musician playing in China where the discrimination he faced in America is not present. Girl meets boy, etc.

I knew a little about the Japanese occupation, did not know about the musicians, and the author cites
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“He had heard it sure enough, wailing underground in clubs and speakeasies, all through Prohibition, hot, polyphonic, toe-tapping, full of syncopated rhythms and bent, naughty notes—perfect for small and secret spaces.” 1 likes
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