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Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai
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Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  40 reviews
To Nini Karpel, growing up in Vienna during the 1920s was a romantic confection. Whether schussing down ski slopes or speaking of politics in coffee houses, she cherished the city of her birth. But in the 1930s an undercurrent of conflict and hate began to seize the former imperial capital. This struggle came to a head when Hitler took possession of neighboring Germany. An ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 2nd 2004 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2002)
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This is a really compelling story that needs to be told, but the telling of it was anything but compelling. Kaplan tells her mother's story in the first person, and does an admirable job of relating the extraordinary events of her life, one incident after another in a completely linear manner. Nini, (Kaplan's mother), manages to get out of Vienna with most of her family before the Nazis completely stop Jews from leaving. They go to Shanghai, the only country that will take them. But life in Shan ...more
Linda C.
I picked up this book several years ago at a Toronto book store while I was visiting Canada on business. It seems to me I brought home a suitcase full of books written by Canadian authors, and Ten Green Bottles is one of my favorite books of all time.

I read it before I started writing book reviews online, but it remained on my shelf because I loved it so much. Recently I had some email correspondence with the author's agent and I decided it was time to read the book again and post a review.

I loved this story about the author's parents. She writes in the first person of her mother, which I found to be both clever and affective in relaying the family's harrowing history. Kaplan's parents meet in 1930s Vienna when anti-Semitism is on the rise in Eastern Europe. Leopold, or Poldi as he's called by family and friends, is originally from Poland, but makes his home in Vienna and meets Nini, who runs a store with her widowed mother. Nini feels safe and secure in Austria, where Jews have a ...more
A wonderful book. A unbelievable but true story of heartbreak and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. I couldn't put it down. The writer tells the story in a way that keeps you riveted to the page. One of the best books I have read in a long time.
This memoir was written by the granddaughter of a Austrian Jewish woman who escaped with her family to Shanghai, China
from Vienna, Austria in 1939. The grandmother (the mother in the story) lost her husband as a young mother with 4 children. The
oldest 2 daughters were married by 1939 while the youngest daughter Nini (the mother of the author) and their only son still lived at
home. This book is based upon the recollections of the author's mother Nini. The beginning of the memoir takes place
Austrian Jews considered themselves Austrian first and Jewish second. When the Gestapo rounds up the Jews in Vienna, their neighbors turn on them. The sentiment that worked in the past was to just stay calm and quiet and this wave of antisemitsm will leave. History has proven that to be bad advise. The Kaplan family sees the light and pulls themselves together in spite of the passing of the patriarch and protector; mom finds an inner strenghth not previously tapped. With the aide of a righteous ...more
This was an interesting story of a family's journey during the holocaust. Writing is a little dry. I finished the book because I was interested in how it all ended up for them, would have liked a prologue on where they are all now.

Enjoyed the first person account, even if it was penned by the daughter in the voice of her mother. What heart wrenching discussions Gerda (Nini) and Viviane as both mother and daughter and biographer and subject must have had. How amazingly difficult it must have been for both - one to tell of the horrors and relive them and the other to listen to them and write them so descriptively.
I also acquired and an insight into a history that I knew nothing about. I never knew about Jews living in Shang
This is the true story of the authors mothers experience during the 2nd world war as a Jew in Austria. Hard subject so not an easy book in some ways but it was good.
Kaplan writes her story in her mother's voice of the harrowing experiences her family faced during WWII going from Vienna to Shanghai, and finally, after ten years, emigrating to Toronto. The author was two years old upon their arrival in Toronto, which is where the book ends. I enjoyed reading this book; however, along the same vein, I thought "Shanghai Diary," which was written by an actual survivor of a similar ordeal, was a slightly better read. I had little knowledge about this part of hist ...more
An unbelievable story of a Viennese family that escapes the Nazis by immigrating to Shanghai. I breathed a sigh a relief when they escaped the Nazis and reached China, but that was just the beginning of their troubles. I learned a lot about the Jewish community in Shanghai and Hongkew, the Jewish ghetto. The book was not particularly well-written, but I was willing to endure the abrupt transitions and long descriptions of inconsequential things to find out what happened to this family.
The autor tells the story of her mother's family and life in pre-WWII Vienna and the trials and tribulations they went thorugh in order to escape to Shanghai. This is somewhat out of the ordinary retelling of Jewish life in Shanghai in that the family did not leave after the war; only the arrival of the communists in the late 1940s spurred them into action. Since my family were also Viennese and had to escape HItler, this book held me in thrall.
Susanne Clower
I had a hard time liking the character who told the story. Also the writing style lacked authenticity. It was too breezy, and the dialogue especially was unbelievable. But it tells (to me) a little-known aspect of WWII, in that this family of Austrian Jews escaped to Shangai, which was one of the very few places in the world at the time that allowed the Jews to enter without a visa. That aspect of the book was fascinating.
Feb 20, 2008 Jamie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who makes family a priority
Recommended to Jamie by: Temple Sholom book club
This is a very courageous story of a family that survived expulsion from their homeland of Austria (and escaped Nazi persecution) only to land in Shanghai, China - a strange and inhospitable land for Jewish refugees. The family faces MANY hardships but also discovers hope and strength in small ways. It's all told first person, which is tough in the beginning when the narrator is 7 but develops well as the heroine matures.
There was not much time spent in the Ghettos of Shanghai. Her family only lived in an actual ghetto for 1-2 years. During the other time they were refugees trying to survive in Shanghai. I thought the writing was good, but at times too descriptive. I felt she could have had less chapters and filled us with more information. I skipped a couple of chapters because I just wanted to get to the end.
While the prose leaves something to be desired, the story is fascinating. You may think that Jews escaping WWII Vienna for Shanghai have left for the good life. Not true. While not a jump "from the frying pan into the fire" dealing with the Japanese occupation, poverty, and their own Jewish ghetto could be characterized as from the "fire into the frying pan." All in all an informative read.
Jeannette Katzir
May 24, 2010 Jeannette Katzir rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All
Recommended to Jeannette by: I read the title and liked the subject matter.
I liked this book . . . a lot once I got past the first 70ish pages. Vivian, who writes beautifully went on a little to long about her love affair with Vienna. But from that point on I loved it. I learned a great deal about the time sequence of the Holocaust and as the child of survivor I thought i knew quite a bit already.
Martha Fiorentini
Fascinating true story about a Jewish family that fled Hitler's army and went to Shanghai. Their and their fellow travelers' adaptability in order to survive was amazing. Learning about life in Shanghai during the war was eye opening. I hadn't realized that Shanghai has been a destination for refugees for many decades.
Esther Marie
A very simple, lovely book. I had not before realized that there was a Jewish settlement in Shanghai during WWII, and found this book an interesting introduction to the topic. The narration of this memoir is simple, and the plot basic, but the author's depiction of survival in the face of incredible loss is very powerful.
I have read many books on the Holocaust, but this is the first one I have read where a Jewish family flees to Shanghai. I knew China had a Jewish population in the pre-Communist years, but this was the first I had really read about it. A good and informative read.
This was amazing - what people can live through is
astounding, and I never knew that Shanghai had a ghetto
so it was a testament to human spirit and I learned
a huge amount as well. I really recommend this book.
Susan Mack
surprisingly good memoir - very interesting to learn about this small group of refugees who wound up in Shanghai only to become caught up in the japanese-chinese conflict. Would recommend enthusiastically.
Aug 28, 2012 Robi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Robi by: kyle weisholtz
Very good book, thank you for recommending Kyle W.! So much went on during the years leading up to WWII that we who did not live through did not know about. Highly recommend.
Sandra Mann
The subject was quite interesting but her writing style was more like someone writing about historical events as in a text book - and one that is dry and not fun to read.
Amazing. I guess sad, but a good sad. Horrible reminder of what my children's people went through but awesome story of survival and rising to the challenge.
Michelle Lawrence
I gave up on this book about halfway through. The story could be interesting, but the writing needed a lot of editing. It was too difficult to slog through.
Tammy Li
Really glad I read this book-a different path to survival from the holocaust. Didn't love the writing style but in the end glad I heard the story.
So moving! One of the best WWII books I have ever read. I never knew that many of the European Jews were forced in immigrate to China.
Jun 20, 2007 Cody rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History/Holocaust buffs
I did not know that Shanghai housed Holocaust survivors until I read this book. This is a sad read, but very interesting.
Another Holocaust story but with happiness, love and even laughter. Sort of true, the author tells her moms story!
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