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The Song of the Jade Lily
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Archive: Other Books > The Song of the Jade Lily, by Kirsty Manning; 3 Stars

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Hahtoolah | 432 comments The Song of the Jade Lily, by Kirsty Manning (2019)

This historical novel jumps back and forth between the present (2016) and the late 1930s’ through the end of World War II. In the present, Alexandra Laird has a high-powered job with a financial company in London and has sought a transfer to Shanghai. The transfer request was for three reasons: to escape part escape from a bad break-up; to be closer to her grandparents who live in Australia; and to learn about her birth mother who had been born in Shanghai. Alexandra’s parents were killed when she was very young had had been raised by her grandparents, Romy and Wilhem Cohen. Alexandra’s mother was ostensibly adopted and was of Chinese ancestry. She is curious about her mother’s origins, but her grandparents have been very secretive about her past.

In flashbacks, we meet Alexandra’s grandmother, Romy. Twelve-year-old Romy and her parents, who were Jews, fled Vienna shortly after Kristallnacht and made their way to Shanghai. China was one of the few countries in the 1930 that was accepting Jewish immigrants. They were not, apparently, practicing Jews in China, but their religious affiliation was not a problem in China.

In Shanghai, Romy met Li Ho, a beautiful young girl who is Romy’s age and the two become fast friends. Li Ho’s father was a doctor in Eastern medicine, which intrigued Romy. She picked up some herbal treatment methods, which she employed throughout her life.

Initially, Shanghai was safe. In the 1930s it was a major international city. Late in World War II, however, Shanghai fell under Japanese control and the city became very dangerous. There are parallels between the brutish treatment of the Nazi’s towards the Jews and the Japanese soldiers’ treatment of the Chinese. Li’s parents were active in the resistance, which lead to a tragic result. Li and her brother then had to take whatever steps necessary to survive.

The description so Shanghai bring the city to life with its sight and smells. Unfortunately, the characters are lacking and are not fully developed. Alexandra too quickly falls into a new relationship that doesn’t quite fit as described in the novel.

The novel was a very quick read, although it could have used a better editor. There were several places where the author repeated herself. The twist at the end, however, made the book a worthwhile read.

3 Stars

message 2: by Joi (new) - added it

Joi (missjoious) | 3822 comments I am so torn on this book- I want to read it, as it looks very Lisa See-y, but it has many topics that I feel like I'll love or hate in the representation. Plus most the reviews I've seen are like yours- mid-star range.

Also didn't realize the main character's last name is Laird- my married name!

message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy | 8853 comments You know I read this last year, and now cannot recall my rating or my review. I think I liked it. I thought the Jews in Shanghai angle was really different. I may have to revisit my review!

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