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Book DetailsISBN: 9781760294793
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Book Review: Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning - Reviewed by Ronnie293 (23 Jun 2018)
The Jade Lily is a dual time-line narrative.
1938 Vienna, Austria – 11 year old Romy and her parents flee to Shanghai after one of her brothers is shot by German soldiers and the other is herded away with other young Jewish men. On the three month trip to Shanghai by boat, Romy meets Nina and they become firm friends. Their lives take very different paths but bonded by the unspeakable events of war they remain firm friends for life.
2016 Melbourne, Australia – 36 year old Alexandra has rushed home from England to be by her dying grandfather’s side, leaving behind a broken romance. Her Grandmother, Romy, is stoic and strong and with lifelong friend Nina by her side she goes about her business without a fuss. This stoic, strong attitude is so endearing and understandable from the women that have been through countless injustices throughout their life and have learned to keep going and do whatever you can to survive through these adversities with no complaint.
Alexandra’s parents died in a car accident when she was young and she was brought up by her grandparents. She knows that her mother Sophia was adopted by Romy and Wilhelm. There is much secrecy around Sophia’s adoption and whenever Alexandra brought it up with her grandparents she could see they were genuinely distressed, so she let the matter drop. Alexandra’s story is one of trying to find out who she is, what makes her the way she is, her ancestry. Armed with nothing but an old photo, her mother’s adoption certificate, an old diary and a jade necklace she accepts a job offer in Shanghai and starts to ask questions. When Alexandra visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and saw her great grandparents’ and grandmother’s names engraved on the wall I could almost feel the goosebumps myself. How surreal this moment must have been!
The Jade Lily is an atmospheric tale of the atrocities of war and the stoic, strong women that endured it. Manning has written a heart-felt historical fiction detailing the hardships endured by the displaced and the unfailing spirit of these people to keep going when all seems lost. A large focus throughout the story is the blending of cultures as refugees from different countries introduce their cultures and foods into Shanghai. Traditional Chinese medicine is also explored with the healing power and well-being benefits of different blends of herbs and acupuncture. Shanghai was the star of this story! The people, the food, the customs, the countryside, the refugees and the architecture all feature prominently, then and now.
”...in this swirling metropolis where decadence and depravity skipped hand in hand and it seemed rules were meant to be broken”
The Jade Lily is an intensively researched story that conveys the shocking cruelties endured by the displaced during the war and one woman’s journey of strength and love as she comes of age during these trying times. The vivid descriptions are a sensual feast of odours, flavours, sounds and sights from the streets of Shanghai.
If you read Historical Fiction this is one book you must add to your shelf.
Content: the horrors of war.
*I received an uncorrected proof copy from the publisher
Book Review: Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning - Reviewed by CloggieA (15 May 2018)
4 stars The Jade Lily is the second novel by Australian author, Kirsty Manning. Alexandra Laird had rushed home from London to be with her grandparents in Melbourne. Opa was dying, and she needed to be with him in his last hours, and to be there for Oma. Her husband’s imminent death brought to mind all the memories that Romy Cohen (nee Bernfeld) had been suppressing. Shanghai, and their years there as Jewish refugees loomed large in her thoughts.
Once Wilhelm has passed, and the proper Jewish mourning rites observed, Romy urges Alexandra to go back to work. Her job as a commodities trader gives her the opportunity to transfer to Shanghai, and she hopes she can use her free time to track down her mother’s family. Alexandra had already known as a young orphan that her mother, Sophia Shu was Chinese, and had been brought to Australia by Romy. Now, with their grief still raw, is hardly the time to ask her Oma about it, so Alexandra makes her own enquiries. And tries not to get too distracted by Zhang, the charming garden designer sharing her building.
Manning tells her story using a split narrative: Romy’s story begins with her family’s escape from Vienna; Alexandra’s narrative is set in 2016. These are supplemented with letters and diary entries. Manning’s characters are multi-faceted and, mostly, appealing, although sometimes their behavior is disappointing or puzzling. Certainly, the most charming character of all is the city of Shanghai itself. Manning’s evocative descriptions will fill the reader’s imagination with the sights, sounds and smells of the place, the food and the people.
The depth of Manning’s research is apparent on every page, and she kindly lists some resources for those readers who are bound to want to know more about the Jewish refugees accepted by Shanghai during World War Two, about the Japanese occupation, and about Traditional Chinese Medicine. She captures the era well, and the mystery of Sophia’s origins will keep readers captivated, even if the reason for the secrecy is less than convincing. Enthralling historical fiction. With thanks to Allen&Unwin for this copy to read and review.
Kirsty Manning grew up in northern New South Wales. A country girl with wanderlust, her travels and studies have taken her through most of Europe, the east and west coasts of the United States and pockets of Asia. Kirsty's first novel was the enchanting The Midsummer Garden published in 2017. The Jade Lily, compelling and pacey, is her second book. Kirsty is a partner in the award-winning Melbourne wine bar Bellota, and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney and Melbourne. She lives with her husband and three children amid an old chestnut grove in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria.
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