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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

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  389 Ratings  ·  59 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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(showing 1-30)
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May 12, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 20, 2013 Linda C. rated it it was amazing
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.

Sep 23, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 14, 2013 Shari rated it liked it
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.
Mar 11, 2014 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
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.
Sharon Delevie
Apr 29, 2015 Sharon Delevie rated it really liked it
Amazing story about this woman born in Vienna right as WWII was heating up and all she and her family went through. It starts slowly about her idyllic life in Vienna, and I wanted it to move along. But as things get horrible, things move along! The biggest shock to me was what happened once they got to Shanghai which I would have thought meant they were completely safe. The idea that no where was (is?) safe comes through in a terrifying and convincing manner. Themes of family, culture, Judaism ( ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 26, 2015 Margaret rated it liked it
A moving, tragic story told by young girl, Nini, the author’s mother, in free civilized Vienna, Austria at the start of Nazism in 1930’s. She details the devolution to a dehumanization of Jewish people and her family’s escape to China. In Shanghai another hell of bondage, deprivation, and dehumanization awaits with the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, China, and alliance with Germany. The amazing story is the resilience of people and how they transform a ghetto to a Little Vienna. The author tel ...more
May 26, 2013 Reesa rated it really liked it
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
Jan 06, 2015 Mom2nine rated it really liked it

In this book, Kaplan tells her mother's story. The first few chapters are a bit stilted, as she sets the stage of her mother's childhood. As her mother gets older, her memories are more vivid, just in time for her family to escape Vienna into Shanghai, to a settlement with which few of us are familiar. Their lives are tension filled and their story is one of survival in the face of repeated destruction. I find the star system a bit difficult and will weigh in on four instead of three stars, even
Annie Howe
Jan 28, 2015 Annie Howe rated it it was amazing
I never knew! Another remarkable story of Jewish perseverance in the face of unspeakable horrors is told as a firsthand account by Vivian Jeanette Kaplan, in her mother's voice. This story recounts the plight of the author's family, and other Austrian Jewish refugees, who escape the Nazis and settle in the ghettos of Shanghai. Kaplan tells the story beautifully, capturing every detail that was related to her by her mother. It's a chapter of the Holocaust that I never learned and now wish to know ...more
Apr 25, 2008 Catherine rated it really liked it
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
Aug 25, 2015 Tim rated it really liked it
Quite a fascinating book - another of the countless written of how individuals and families escaped the Nazi dragnet.

In this case, members of this Jewish family narrowly escape the widening German net, fleeing from Austria to Italy and on the absolute last ship that sailed for Shanghai with Jewish passengers.

Shanghai, of course, was under Japanese control, and so the story is one of ever-tightening misery (and savagery) but at least with no systematic, fanatical, searching for Jews and an ultima
Oct 09, 2011 Gwen rated it liked it
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.
Jan 23, 2008 Jamie rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 28, 2009 Francie rated it really liked it
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.
Marci Lambert
Apr 06, 2016 Marci Lambert rated it it was amazing
I was interested in this book from the very beginning and by the end I had just fallen in love with the whole family. I can't imagine living through the ordeals the narrator did. The story of Viennese Jews who fled to Shanghai during WWII, only to be faced with new horrors, is very compelling. It's written in present tense so you get to experience every victory and setback with Nini and her family. For all the evil out there, it is good to know that the human spirit can still rise above it.
Ellen Wasserstrom
Jul 28, 2015 Ellen Wasserstrom rated it really liked it
The story truly reveals the struggles of Viennese Jews trying to escape Nazi Occupied Vienna. A true story, it captures your attention throughout. Unlike stories of Jewish families who perish in the camps, Ten Green Bottles reveals the trials and tribulations of European refugees living in the totally foreign land of Shanghai, China. Just when you thought you know all there is to know about the plight of the Jews fleeing Nazi Europe, you learn even more. Highly recommended.
Susanne Clower
Feb 28, 2008 Susanne Clower rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, asia
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.
Esther Marie
Jan 25, 2011 Esther Marie rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
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.
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.
Feb 10, 2016 Alaine rated it liked it
This was an amazing story and it was very interesting and suspenseful. I feel like it could have been written a little more eloquently, and towards to later half of the book was a little bored(even though the story was so compelling).
Living in Asia, I enjoyed reading about the Austrian refugees to Shanghai and all their fortitude and bravery.
Martha Fiorentini
Mar 16, 2010 Martha Fiorentini rated it liked it
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.
Jeannette Katzir
May 24, 2010 Jeannette Katzir rated it really liked it
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.
Erin Mizrahi
Nov 16, 2015 Erin Mizrahi rated it really liked it
I was told to read this book before I went on my trip to China. I read it while touring China which ended in Shanghai, where the story takes place. I went and visited the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai. This was an awesome experience! Highly recommend the book, especially if you are going to Shanghai!
Jun 04, 2012 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, holocaust, 2012
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.
Susan Mack
Aug 20, 2013 Susan Mack rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 04, 2014 Carol rated it liked it
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.

Oct 29, 2008 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 25, 2013 Vicki added it
Easy read, very interesting story.
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