cover image The Song of the Jade Lily

The Song of the Jade Lily

Kirsty Manning. Morrow, $16.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-288201-1

Australian author Manning makes her American debut with this superb take on a lesser known aspect of WWII: some European Jews, fleeing from the Nazis, received asylum in Japanese-occupied Shanghai after being denied it elsewhere. Set during WWII and the present day, the dual narrators Romy and her granddaughter, commodities trader Alexandra, find their narratives blended when a family secret is revealed. In 1939, after a deadly pogrom in Vienna, Romy, 12, and her parents arrive in Shanghai, where they befriend the Ho family; beautiful singer Li Ho and brilliant Romy become inseparable. Manning embellishes their coming-of-age story with Shanghai’s culture (street vendors, rickshaws, traditional Chinese medicine); hardships (crowded housing, food deprivation); and political retribution against the Ho family. Romy and Li share a powerful, life-changing experience that reaches into future generations. In 2016, with Romy settled in Melbourne, Alexandra leaves London after a breakup to be with her grandparents; after her grandfather dies, she goes to Shanghai for a new job and begins researching her adopted mother’s murky ancestry. After a serendipitous encounter with a shop owner and Romy’s stunning revelations, Alexandra pieces together her family history. With breadth and intelligence, this exquisite novel portrays a resilient community and a secret kept to protect another.[em] (May) [/em]