The Song of the Jade Lily
“Kirsty Manning weaves together little-known threads of World War II history, family secrets, the past and the present into a page-turning, beautiful novel."— Heather Morris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz
A gripping historical novel that tells the little-known story of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai during WWII.
1939: Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city's glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.
2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother's history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother's own past in Shanghai.
After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents' past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family—and herself.
The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.
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.