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A book review:Shanghai Experience Sucessfully Captured in Fi

Time:2014-02-28 20:54 Source: China Judaic Studies Assn Writer:cjss read:
 Dear fellow Sinophiles,

 I am continually surprised by how little the general public -- even those
 well informed about the Holocaust -- know about the history of the Jewish
 refugees in Shanghai during WWII. Now, two new historical novels will
 enlighten new audiences as well as add to the libraries of the
cognoscenti.
 Author Daniel Kalla aims to bring this often-neglected piece of history
 to light. He succeeds, while ensuring that readers will be "struck
 time and time again by the dignity, bravery, and sense of community among
the indigenous Chinese and the transplanted German Jews -- two oppressed
 peoples who lived side by side with remarkable tolerance and mutual
respect, in an age of neither."
 
 "The Far Side of the Sky? (463 pages) and "Rising Sun, Falling Shadow" (352
 pages), are sequential novels based on the lives and experiences of
Jewish refugees to Shanghai during World War II. (Both are available from
 Amazon in hard cover, paperback and kindle editions).

While the main characters -- Dr Franz Adler, a secular Austrian Jew, his
young daughter Hannah, and Soon Yi "Sunny" Mah, a Eurasian nurse -- are
fictional,their lives and stories blossom in a finely researched depiction
ofwartime events. Many of the minor characters, including Nazi and
Japanese officials, are actual historical figures.
 
The first novel opens -- as do so many Holocaust depictions -- with 
Kristallnacht. It is Nov 9, 1948 in Vienna, and Kalla provides essential
background to set the stage for all that follows, skillfully moving between
Europe and Asia as his characters prepare to flee Austria for a
(hopefully) more accepting homeland. Warming to his well-researched subject, his
narrative becomes more and more interesting, the characters more and more
human as he progresses to the Shanghai setting where they endure great
hardship in their struggle to survive. Kalla, who is well known for his
medical thrillers (he is an emergency room physician), centers this work
around a refugee hospital in his fast moving, well timed plot.
The author reaches his full stride in the second book. It is now 1943 and
the Jews are under the control of hostile Japanese, including the threat
 of Nazi pressure to exterminate them. They have been herded into the Hong
 Kew ghetto, where their difficult life borders on the impossible. Subplots
 develop; moral dilemmas abound in the war-torn city. The colorful Shanghai
 of Book I is now a grimy shadow of its former self. However, even in the
 darkest of moments in this family and community saga of espionage and
 betrayal, glimmers of light shine through.
 
 The two books can be read independently as Kalla neatly covers the back
 story of Book I in the second volume. Both books are good reads, and he
 also leaves the door open for a third installment. I await it with
 interest.
 
 Recommended.

 Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
 Executive Director, China Judaic Studies Assn.

(Author:cjss)